This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Cormetech wins state environmental honors (Cleveland Daily Banner)
Cormetech Inc.’s Cleveland manufacturing facility has been named the recipient of the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards for Excellence in Materials Management. “I’m thrilled that Cormetech is being recognized for our efforts in environmental stewardship,” Denise Rice, director of Cleveland operations and development, said. “This is really a great next step after last year. We were recognized by the Chattanooga regional manufactures association.” Winners will be officially recognized during a ceremony on June 23 in Nashville.
Ed Talk: Huffman Says Adults (That Means Teachers) Have To Work Harder (WPLN)
Tennessee’s Education Commissioner gave a talk at TedxNashville earlier this year on the topic of teachers. Kevin Huffman’s 20-minute speech could be boiled down to this one controversial line: to improve education “kids have to work harder, and adults have to work harder too.” “I think people somehow want us to build a better education system without having to do more work or without having to do things differently,” Huffman tells WPLN in a recent interview. “People expect there to be some magical, easy solution, maybe if you just have a better curriculum or a better book or something like that. Almost uniformly, what you see in the places that are doing better, there is more work going into academics.”
Two Ways TN Legislators Running For Congress Explain Common Core (WPLN)
Common Core has become political kryptonite in GOP primary campaigns for Congress. And two Tennessee legislators running for higher office helped vote in the new educational standards, but they have very different ways of defending it. “I’ve always been against [Common Core,” says state Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), who is running against incumbent Congressman Scott DesJarlais. “We voted for Race to the Top, but we never voted for Common Core,” Tracy says when asked about legislation that helped Tennessee position for a $500 million education grant.
Heroin is back in East Tennessee (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Coleman)
As pain pills become more expensive and difficult to find for illicit use, the Knoxville area is seeing a large influx of heroin pumped in from 500 miles away, authorities say. “Our informants and sources are telling us it is coming out of the Detroit-based area brought via vehicles or bus lines or rental cars. It’s fairly cheap for a user to get their hands on,” said Lt. Chris Bryant with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit. “The intensity of the high they’re getting off it is one of the reasons they’re using it and they don’t have to buy a large amount to get their fix. A tenth of a gram of heroin will suffice them.”
Changing landscape: One pill addict’s turn to heroin (News-Sentinel/Coleman)
The first time Steve Wildsmith tried to buy heroin from a street dealer in Knoxville, the man brought him a bag of diesel fuel. Wildsmith had come back to East Tennessee after losing his music writing job with a newspaper in Myrtle Beach, S.C., because of his drug addiction. He made a second, halfhearted attempt at recovery and landed a job with The Daily Times in Maryville. It wasn’t too long after that when he began abusing prescription medication. When that source ran dry, he went looking for heroin — called “diesel” in Myrtle Beach and “dog food” in Boston.
Alexander campaign poll shows incumbent up big (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s campaign says its latest poll shows the incumbent with a 56 percent to 14 percent lead over his best-known Republican primary challenger, state Rep. Joe Carr. Carr’s campaign manager, Donald Rickard, effectively shrugged off the results distributed to media last week, declaring “the environment surrounding this race will shift significantly” in the weeks ahead and citing last week’s victory of Ben Sasse, a tea party-backed candidate, in Nebraska’s Republican U.S. Senate primary.
Campfield challenger well ahead in fundraising (Tennessean/Hall)
The latest financial disclosures in a much-watched state senate race show a challenger to Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, is well ahead in his fundraising. But election laws barred Campfield, whose polarizing statements about homosexuality, gun control and the black caucus have drawn negative attention from national media to Tennessee, from fundraising while finishing the legislative session, which ended in April. Knoxville News Sentinel political columnist Georgiana Vines reported last week that Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs has nearly $158,000 in his coffers to unseat Campfield in the Aug. 7 Republican primary.
Crackdown on drugs from ‘gray market’ targets doctors (Tennessean/Williams)
The federal government’s crackdown on “diverted” drugs is now targeting physicians and others involved in the illegal importation of drugs through the emerging “gray market.” In these cases, federal authorities allege that physicians buy prescription drugs from companies or brokers outside of the United States and then offer them to their patients, even though the medicines were not manufactured in facilities inspected or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as required by law, according to court records. The federal cases involve brand-name drugs, such as the cancer treatments Avastin and Rituxan, which were imported from Turkey, India, the European Union or other countries, but were not approved for import or sale in the United States.
Drug wholesalers choking pain-pill supply in Tennessee (Tennessean/Benton)
A Middle Tennessee pain clinic doctor, targeted last month in a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation into overprescribing, says restrictions are strangling supplies of pain medications in rural communities and are causing misguided investigations of some pain management doctors. Dr. Councill C. Rudolph, of Winchester, Tenn., said limits on independent pharmacies that many of his patients use are harming care. For such pharmacies, controlled substances can comprise no more than 20 percent of their total filled prescriptions. “Community pharmacies before this had in their storerooms just what the community needed. [The limitation] is ruining this country,” Rudolph said.
States Open to Drug Options (Wall Street Journal)
A push to widen access to experimental drugs for people with terminal illness is gaining traction among lawmakers in several states, highlighting a growing clamor from patients for promising therapies that haven’t been approved for sale. The so-called right-to-try bills, the first of which was signed into law in Colorado on Saturday by Gov. John W. Hickenlooper, may not make a big difference in practice because they generally don’t require companies to provide access to the unapproved drugs outside of clinical trials.
Student Debt Grows Faster at Universities With Highest-Paid Leaders: Study (NYT)
At the 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents, both student debt and the use of part-time adjunct faculty grew far faster than at the average state university from 2005 to 2012, according to a new study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning Washington research group. The study, “The One Percent at State U: How University Presidents Profit from Rising Student Debt and Low-Wage Faculty Labor,” examined the relationship between executive pay, student debt and low-wage faculty labor at the 25 top-paying public universities. The co-authors, Andrew Erwin and Marjorie Wood, found that administrative expenditures at the highest-paying universities outpaced spending on scholarships by more than two to one.
TVA builds new aquatic center near Gallatin (Tennessean)
As part of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s $1 billion clean-air project at Gallatin Fossil Plant, construction is underway on a new hatchery and aquatic center along the Cumberland River. TVA is investing almost $1.5 million to build the new Cumberland River Aquatic Center, which will replace an aging facility next to the Gallatin Fossil Plant that was removed at the start of the plant’s emissions control project last year. Like the old one, the new facility will be operated by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Under a new operating agreement, TVA will provide essential services, including the supply of river water necessary to nurture the various aquatic species to be housed at the facility.
Williamson County Schools reviews textbooks (Tennessean/Giordano)
The Williamson County school board on Thursday reviewed lists of recommended social studies textbooks for the 2014-15 school year and never once mentioned the book that was at the epicenter of much controversy last year. Among the 30 or so social studies textbooks to be adopted by the district is the 11th edition of “The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography,” a resource book for high school Advanced Placement geography courses and a flash point of protest from a small group of parents. School board members reviewed the list and how the books came to be recommended during Thursday’s work session.
Murfreesboro City Schools may offer bonuses to special ed, ESL teachers (DNJ)
Tennessee Board of Education voted last summer to require each of the state’s 136 school districts to come up with a differentiated pay plan based on more than experience and degrees. Murfreesboro City Schools will offer teachers in hard-to-staff areas, currently deemed as Comprehensive Development, English as a second language and Behavior Modification, a signing bonus up to $2,000, the board decided May 13. Though the hard-to-staff areas could change each year depending on the district’s needs, Director of Schools Linda Gilbert said ESL will remain a high priority.
Should students be isolated? Experts weigh in on concerns (Jackson Sun)
Eulena Sells’ grandson tests at the first-grade level, but he doesn’t experience school the same as other children his age. As a student with autism, his mental development differs from the “regular ed” students in his class, and sometimes the classroom environment can be too intense, Sells said. “Even though he had passed his test (to be mainstreamed into the first grade) … he would still need extra help because he can’t sit in a typical classroom,” Sells said. Sells expressed concern that her grandson has been suspended from school in Chester County three times this year, and she said he often finds himself in isolation due to behavior issues.
Editorial: School systems must have BEP data for budgets (Knox News-Sentinel)
The Knox County Board of Education is reeling from a blow its members did not see coming — a reduction in the amount of state funding available for the school system. Revenues from the Basic Education Program, the state’s primary school funding mechanism, will fall an estimated $2.9 million below previous projections. That estimate is not etched in stone — Knox County Schools and the Knox County Commission will have to deal with the funding shortfall with only a vague idea of how much money to expect from Nashville.
Editorial: A battle royal over pay for music artists (Tennessean)
Lawmakers in Congress are looking to reset at least one aspect of the unfettered Internet: digital radio services that underpay or pay nothing at all to the artists whose music they play. Federal copyright law has failed to keep up with digital distribution models or the problems with Internet piracy. AM/FM radio stations are also likely to get caught up in the move to increase royalty payments, which shows just how long overdue this action is. For Nashville, a city of songwriters, performers and publishers, this wave of legislation is, well, music to the ear.
Editorial: Judges and Justice for Sale (New York Times)
Judicial elections have always been a bad idea. The special-interest money unleashed by recent Supreme Court rulings has made them even worse, greatly increasing the influence of political-action committees and supposedly independent groups financed by corporations, unions and other interests with issues before the courts. In North Carolina’s Supreme Court primary on May 5, for example, Justice Robin Hudson endured attack ads charging that she coddled child molesters and “sided with the predators” in a dissent while on the bench.
Editorial: TVA must show progress toward renewable sources (C. appeal)
The issue flies below the radar for most of us in Shelby County as we go about our daily tasks, such as flipping a switch and taking it for granted that the lights will go on. But it would be hard to overestimate the importance of a decision to be made this year by the Tennessee Valley Authority that will have long-term effects on this community’s economic and physical health. The TVA supplies power to Shelby County through Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division, making it possible for us to assume that the lights will go on when we hit that switch. The decision it must make is whether to retire the outdated, pollution-producing Allen Fossil Plant.