This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Haslam: Tyson Foods Expanding Goodlettsville Operations (TN Report)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with Tyson Foods, Inc. officials today announced the food processor will invest $15.5 million to expand its current operations in Goodlettsville and hire and train 157 new workers. “I want to thank Tyson Foods for investing in our state and creating these high quality jobs for Middle Tennessee,” Haslam said. “When well-established companies like Tyson Foods choose to expand and reinvest in our state, it sends a strong message that Tennessee is one of the best places to do business and supports our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”
Tyson Foods to expand in Goodlettsville, add 157 jobs (Tennessean/Williams)
Food production giant Tyson Foods Inc. announced Tuesday it will spend $15.5 million to expand its plant in Goodlettsville. As a result, the company expects to hire an additional 157 workers at the plant, which currently has about 1,600 workers. Tyson will add four production lines and expand cold storage capabilities at its Tyson Fresh Meats facility at 201 Cartwright Drive. in Goodlettsville. The nation’s second-largest food processor produces case-ready beef and pork products for grocery stores and other retailers at the plant.
Tyson Foods investing $15.5M in Davidson County expansion (Nash Biz Journal)
Tyson Foods Inc. will spend $15.5 million to expand its facility in Goodlettsville, company and government officials announced today. The investment will create 157 additional jobs at its Tyson Fresh Meats facility. The nation’s second-largest food processor produces case-ready beef and pork products for grocery stores and other retailers at the plant, which already employs roughly 1,600 workers, according to a news release. “We’re very appreciative to the state of Tennessee and our local partners for their support on this expansion, which will help us build up our capabilities locally,” Jeff Rowen, Goodlettsville complex manager for Tyson Fresh Meats, said in the release.
Tyson to add 157 jobs in Goodlettsville (Nashville Post)
Tyson Foods announced a $15.5 million expansion of its Goodlettsville facility that is expected to bring 157 new jobs. The nation’s second-largest food processor will add four production lines and expand cold storage capabilities at its Tyson Fresh Meats facility, which produces case-ready beef and pork products. Tyson already employs 1,600 people in Goodlettsville. Hiring for the new jobs is expected to begin in June. “We’re very appreciative to the state of Tennessee and our local partners for their support on this expansion, which will help us build up our capabilities locally,” Jeff Rowen, Goodlettsville complex manager for Tyson Fresh Meats, said in a release.
Lincoln, bordering counties, to get federal aid (Associated Press)
A disaster declaration has been granted for Lincoln County and its bordering counties for flooding and tornado damage last month. The declaration includes Bedford, Franklin, Giles, Lincoln, Marshall and Moore counties in Tennessee. Homeowners and businesses affected by the bad weather will be eligible for low-interest federal loans. On April 28, Tennessee experienced an outbreak of severe storms producing heavy rain, hail and damaging winds. A tornado touched down in Lincoln County striking several homes and South Lincoln Elementary School. The tornado killed two people and injured six more.
Haslam makes Appointments to State Boards and Commissions (C. Online)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today announced the appointments of 116 Tennesseans to 39 boards and commissions. “I appreciate the commitment of these men and women and want to thank them for their willingness to serve the state,” Haslam said. “Tennessee will be well represented on these boards and commissions.”
Hate crimes jump in Tennessee but drop in Nashville (Tennessean/Tamburin)
A growing number of people fell victim to hate crimes in Tennessee last year, but Nashville bucked the statewide trend, according to a report released Tuesday by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The report counted 348 victims of hate crimes statewide in 2013. That’s a 17.2 percent jump from 2012’s victim count. Crimes based on ethnic biases nearly quadrupled last year, jumping from 25 reported victims in 2012 to 96 in 2013. That category accounts for the highest number of hate crime victims. Victim tallies for crimes based on sexual and disability biases climbed by smaller margins.
TBI reports rise in hate crimes across Tennessee (WSMV-TV Nashville)
Hate crimes are on the rise in Tennessee, according to an annual report by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. In all, hate crime reports were up 17 percent over the prior year, totaling about 350 victims. Investigators saw about a 300 percent increase in victims reporting hate crimes based on their ethnicity or national origin. But only eight victims overall say they were the target of religious bias crimes in Tennessee. The offenders in these cases are overwhelmingly male, accounting for about 75 percent of all hate crimes. When it comes to sexual bias crimes, nearly all of 2013’s cases were aimed at gay or lesbian victims, the TBI reports.
Ethnic Hate Crimes Triple In Tennessee, But That’s About All We Know (WPLN)
Hate crimes are on the rise in Tennessee, according to a new report from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. In particular, the number of so-called ethnically-motivated offenses tripled from the previous year. Crimes brought on by ethnicity bias was the most noticeable jump. Now that’s different from racist crimes, which actually went down. Generally speaking, race is inferred by how someone looks, and ethnicity points to someone’s culture, or where someone is from. There’s not a lot we can say about the numbers except that a category called “other” caused the drastic increase in ethnically motivated offenses.
Board of Medical Examiners faces opposition to telemedicine regulation (N. Post)
The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners heard from a number of health care providers Monday in response to proposed regulation surrounding the practice of telemedicine in the state. Telemedicine is the practice of treating patients remotely, through video conferencing and other technology. It has become an increasingly common solution to physician and speciality shortages, particularly in rural areas. Facing notable opposition from rural providers as well as representatives from Cigna and WellPoint, the proposed amendment would require that the initial and fourth health care encounter take place face-to-face between patient and physician.
TN inspectors test whether gas pumps give your money’s worth (WSMV-TV Nash)
Many drivers have grown accustomed to the idea of paying a small fortune to fill up the gas tank. But have you ever wondered if you’re actually getting what you’re paying for? “I have a friend, and he used to hang [the gas pump hose] upside down in the air to make sure everything comes out, but I’m not doing all that,” said driver Mario Brown. The state has a team of inspectors who check gas pumps each year to make sure they are properly calibrated, and what they found might surprise you. Every gas pump in Tennessee is manually inspected by dispensing five gallons into a calibrated standard.
Hobby Lobby sues state over unpaid taxes (Tennessean/Haas)
Hobby Lobby wants to know exactly what the word “directly” means. A quibble over the wording in Tennessee’s tax code has the Oklahoma City-based hobby business suing the state over $163,827.91 in unpaid taxes. At issue is whether tax-exempt purchases can be made with personal checks or whether they have to be made “directly” by checks cut by an eligible organization. Hobby Lobby filed suit last week to have a Davidson County Chancery Court judge decide. The Tennessee Department of Revenue declined to discuss the lawsuit Tuesday, saying the agency doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation. The attorney for Hobby Lobby couldn’t be reached.
TBI launches voter fraud probe on attempt to recall Anderson (TFP/Lukachick)
State investigators have launched a probe to determine whether voter fraud was committed during a failed attempt to recall District 7 Councilman Chris Anderson. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is scrutinizing about 300 signatures that were tossed out by the Hamilton County Election Commission to learn whether the signatures on the petition were forged. TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said investigators were requested by the local district attorney’s office. The recall attempt fell about 400 signatures short of the required 1,600 needed to force a public referendum on Anderson.
Texting to 911 in emergencies coming soon to Tennessee (WVLT-TV Knoxville)
Picture this scene: someone breaks into your home in the middle of the night. You want to call for help, but you don’t want the intruder to know where you’re hiding. That’s where technology will soon step in — allowing you to text to 911 during an emergency. The Tennessee State government is using grants to set up local 911 call centers with the equipment to accept text messages. In Jefferson County, they’ve been set up for about a year, just waiting on the State to give them the green light. “Of course there’s all sorts of language and vocabulary involved with text messaging,” Jefferson County 911 Director Justin Crowther said.
MTSU signs transfer agreement with Albany Tech (Associated Press)
Middle Tennessee State University has agreed to allow students who graduate with an associate’s degree from Georgia’s Albany Technical College to pursue a bachelor’s degree in electromechanical engineering technology in Murfreesboro. According to MTSU, the agreement marks the first time the university has formed such a partnership with an out-of-state school. MTSU Provost Brad Bartel and Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker on Tuesday signed the transfer agreement that allows students to attend two years at Albany Tech followed by two years at MTSU.
MTSU signs transfer agreement with Georgia’s Albany Tech (Daily News Journal)
Officials from MTSU and Southwest Georgia’s Albany Technical College have signed an agreement allowing students who graduate with an associate degree from Albany Tech to transfer to MTSU to earn their bachelor’s degree in electromechanical engineering technology. Tuesday’s signing marked the first time MTSU has gone beyond the state’s borders to forge such a partnership. The program will allow Albany State students to pay in-state tuition to attend MTSU. With their campuses about 400 miles and six hours apart, MTSU Provost Brad Bartel and Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker signed the 2+2 transfer agreement — two years at Albany Tech followed by two years at MTSU.
Groundbreaking set for Jackson State CC building (Associated Press)
Jackson State Community College says it will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for its new nursing building early next month. The college said Tuesday that the groundbreaking for the modern, state-of-the-art facility will take place June 3. College President Bruce Blanding, Dean of Nursing Leslie West-Sands and area health care officials are expected to attend. The college says the new construction will dramatically impact the existing footprint and flow of traffic on campus. The building has been in the planning stages for 15 years. It is the first major expansion of the campus since the construction of the McWherter Center in the 1980s.
Justices pledge ‘open’ process to select state attorney general (N-S/Humphrey)
Three Democratic Supreme Court justices say they will choose the state’s next attorney general in a “non-partisan manner,” and one makes a point of saying she will work with two Republican justices to “select the best applicant.” The statements in response to News Sentinel inquiries come with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey criticizing the current attorney general, Democrat Bob Cooper, as part of an effort to unseat Supreme Court Justices Cornelia Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade. The three seek new eight-year terms in a statewide Aug. 7 retention election.
Fostering better health for Tennessee’s mothers, babies (Tennessean/DuBois)
To truly improve the health of women and babies in the state, lawmakers should implement rules that reward healthy behavior. That’s at least the opinion of one state lawmaker when asked about the challenge of improving Tennessee’s care for its youngest residents. “I think it’s important that we talk about how we can do things that are not always punitive to mothers who have issues going on. Sometimes we must also do things that are positive,” said Rep. Harold Love Jr., D-Nashville, at a panel discussion Tuesday on maternal health in Tennessee.
Ethics Complaint Filed Against Lieutenant Governor (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey faces an ethics complaint over a plan to target three state Supreme Court justices for defeat. That plan was first revealed by NewsChannel 5 Investigates. Clarksville resident Barry Schmittou filed the complaint with the Tennessee Ethics Commission Tuesday over Ramsey’s use of his office to develop the plan. A member of the lieutenant governor’s staff drew up the document. And the Blountville Republican admitted that it was shown to business interests inside his office to try to get them to put their money behind an effort to oust three Democratic appointees during the August election.
As senate race heats up, Campfield, Briggs reach out to young Republicans (WATE)
As the District 7 race for state Senate heats up, the candidates are reaching out to young voters. In a forum organized by the Knox County Young Republicans Tuesday night, Senator Stacey Campfield and his opponent, Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs, weighed in on unemployment, taxes and the 2nd Amendment. Regarding the state’s dropping unemployment rate, Campfield says he’s proud of the changes, while Briggs says Tennessee still needs more jobs. Both men say the education system needs to do more to prepare high school students for the workforce, like adding more trade schools.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits Nashville (Associated Press/Johnson)
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says 60 years after segregation was outlawed in public schools, civil rights still remains a critical issue in education. Duncan referenced the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision during a speech Tuesday to a group of education writers at Vanderbilt University, one of three stops he made in Nashville. Saying there’s still work to do, Duncan noted the achievement gaps between affluent and poor students, and what he called so-called opportunity gaps in that “all families” don’t have access to high-quality early-learning initiatives.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits Nashville (Tennessean)
At multiple stops in Nashville Tuesday, President Barack Obama’s top education official showered Tennessee with praise for “controversial but common-sense decisions” he contends are having a profound effect on achievement. In doing so, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan lauded state officials for taking on what he coined a “courage gap” prevalent in public education today, pointing to reforms this state embraced despite fierce pushback. “There’s so much this room and this state should be collectively proud of,” Duncan said during a panel discussion moderated by Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, an ally, at Brick Church College Prep, a Nashville middle school overseen by the state and operated by a charter school organization.
Arne Duncan: Closing education gaps ‘moral imperative’ (News-Sentinel/McCoy)
Education is the civil-rights issue of our generation, especially when it relates to student achievement and opportunity gaps, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday. “Where is our collective outrage over our nation’s achievement gaps and the fact that nearly millions of our children still don’t receive equal educational opportunity,“ he said as he addressed reporters during the Education Writer’s Association national seminar at Vanderbilt University. During his address, Duncan noted the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that ended segregation in public schools, saying that it was not only a part of the nation’s past, but its future, too.
U.S. Secretary Of Ed: States Need ‘Courage’ To Implement Common Core (WPLN)
During a visit to Nashville, the U.S. Secretary of Education praised Tennessee for setting higher standards in schools but said the state is focusing on the wrong battles. Tennessee won half a billion dollars for education reform in 2010, and the state is now arguing over how to implement the Common Core, a set of education standards adopted by 44 states around the country. On one side, supporters say the higher standards will prepare students for a competitive workforce; on the other, conservative and liberal opponents say they still want high standards but take issue with the way they’re implemented.
US Education Secretary Duncan Visits Nashville (WTVF-TV Nashville)
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan made a series of stops in Nashville Tuesday. The last time Duncan was in Nashville he challenged Tennessee to improve student achievement faster than any other state in the nation. Despite criticism about some of the changes the state has made, Duncan last year attributed the reforms in large part to a national report that showed Tennessee students lead the nation in academic improvement Tuesday, Duncan applauded the state’s success and stressed more work needs to be done.
House Passes Bill Designed To Unlock Chickamauga Lock Funding Logjam (WTVC)
Could long-awaited funding for the Chickamauga Lock in Chattanooga finally be in sight? That’s the hope of lock supporters after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, a bill that directly affects funding for the Chickamauga Lock. The measure provides more than $12 billion dollars that authorize 34 separate water projects across the country. The Chickamauga Lock is one of those projects. Tennessee 3rd District Congressman Chuck Fleischmann was among the 412 House members voting in favor of the bill. Fleischmann voiced his support from the House floor Tuesday afternoon.
ACA and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (Stateline)
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was enacted in 1997 to extend health coverage to children in poor families with modest incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act now offers many of those same families federal subsidies through the health insurance exchanges, calling into question whether the program should be continued over the long term. CHIP helped lower the uninsured rate among low-income American children from 25 percent in 1997 to 13 percent in 2012, and the program has strong bipartisan support at the state and federal level.
Maryland, Mass Ask Feds for Bigger Budgets to Fix Exchanges (Governing)
Few states have embraced the ideas behind the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with more enthusiasm than Maryland and Massachusetts, which adopted many of them years before the passage of the federal law. But the two now find themselves trying to fix their malfunctioning health insurance exchanges and seeking federal approval to spend more money to do so. Both states plan to replace their systems with technology from more successful state-based exchanges, but Massachusetts also wants to be prepared to switch to the federal exchange as a backup plan in case it can’t pull off the switch in time for the next enrollment period, which starts Nov. 15.
Women’s Final Four generated $20M in direct spending (Tennessean/Schiraldi)
Visitors spent more than $20 million during last month’s NCAA Women’s Final Four in Nashville, officials announced Tuesday morning. The event drew more than 30,000 visitors to downtown Nashville. The results pleased local leaders and officials with the NCAA, which said this year’s event could help provide momentum for future events for Nashville. “Nashville will be considered for a future Final Four,” said Anucha Browne, vice president of women’s basketball championships. Officials said any announcements on future NCAA bids are expected to come in mid-November.
TCAP delay may affect students’ final grades (Tennessean/Easton)
Sumner County Board of Education members tonight unanimously approved a request by Director of Schools Del Phillips to set aside a policy requiring TCAP scores for students in grades 3-8 to be factored in their final spring grades for the current school year. Phillips said he would ask for a waiver allowing him to omit TCAP results from students’ final grade calculations after the State Department of Education notified school leaders that results from TCAP tests — taken in grades 3-8 — would be delayed by at least 10 more days for review. School ends Wednesday in Sumner County.
Kingsport report cards may not include TCAP scores (Times-News)
Despite Tennessee law and Kingsport school board policy, city elementary and middle school report cards for the second semester won’t include this year’s delayed TCAP scores, unless it would increase those final grades. Addressing an issue that affects more than 130 public school systems across the state, city Superintendent Lyle Ailshie said at the end of Tuesday night’s school board work session that the state will not provide Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program scores for tested subjects in grades 3-8 for an estimated 10 days. The TCAP scores, which by Kingsport Board of Education policy are supposed to account for 20 percent of the second semester grade in reading/language arts, math, science and social studies, were supposed to be released already.
County schools going after unpaid mixed-drink taxes (News-Sentinel/Fowler)
It’s been called obscure and “muddy as all get-out,” but this years-old state law is prompting county school districts throughout Tennessee into a flurry of activity to file legal actions to collect unpaid liquor-by-the-drink taxes. And in some instances, many millions are at stake. In Hamilton County, for instance, the 43,000-student school district is seeking $15.2 million — plus interest — in mixed-drink taxes it contends Chattanooga didn’t pay the school system since liquor-by-the-drink was adopted by the city in 1968. A Chancery Court complaint over the issue has been filed, said Hamilton County Board of Education attorney Scott Bennett.
Money talks: Cuts might come to Knox County education (News-Sentinel/Witt)
They should talk more. After 90 minutes of discussion — and sandwiches — at Ijams Nature Center on Tuesday, Knox County Commission and the school board decided that they should meet more often. But the two groups didn’t find the almost $3 million to replace state cuts to local education funding. And talks over school funding overall spiraled into statistical arguments from commissioners who wanted to examine school budget details, while school board members quoted state figures to show how schools were underfunded. Meanwhile, commissioners are expected on Monday to pass a budget proposal for 2014-15 from Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett that leaves the school system about $7 million short of its full funding request.
Shelby County school board riled over fuzzy requests (Commercial Appeal/Roberts)
The Shelby County School board, clearly annoyed Tuesday night, sent so many potential contracts, staff recommendations and concepts back for more details that Supt. Dorsey Hopson at one point muttered, “You guys are tough today.” Items sent back included plans to outsource substitute teachers. The board found holes in at least a half-dozen reports, from vagaries in how some 13,000 new laptops (contract worth $5.4 million) will be marked to reduce theft to a request to spend more than $6 million on textbooks based on an agenda description so brief, board member Billy Orgel quipped, “This is like a tweet almost — 140 characters.”
Editorial: Megasite and environment can prosper in harmony (Jackson Sun)
The state of Tennessee is working to clear one of the final hurdles that can lead to the Memphis Regional Megasite in Haywood County becoming shovel ready, and it is an important one. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is putting the finishing touches on a wastewater disposal proposal associated with the megasite and neighboring city of Brownville, which will manage the wastewater. We believe this important and environmentally sensitive issue is manageable and poses little, if any, threat to the Hatchie River or to the Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge.
Editorial: Battle against heroin must be multi-pronged (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
Smack is back. Heroin never left, of course, though it all but disappeared from the national consciousness, inundated by the successive waves of crack, meth and prescription drug abuse. Its return is troubling. Heroin is cheap. It is potent. And highly addictive. Thanks to tougher law enforcement, pain pills — the opiate of choice among many addicts — are becoming harder to obtain and more expensive to buy. So addicts are turning to heroin in ever increasing numbers. In 2005-06, Tennessee officials recorded zero people seeking treatment for heroin addiction at state-funded treatment centers.