This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Chamber initiative’s goal is better-educated work force (Tennessean/Williams)
By the year 2021, the Nashville area will have nearly 35,000 job openings that it won’t have the skilled or credentialed workers to fill, creating an employment vacuum that could send prospective employers elsewhere to find the help they need. That was one of the key findings of the region’s Vital Signs assessment led by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, and has now become the top priority of a chamber task force that hopes to head off such a significant worker shortage. The push will be to get Middle Tennessee high school graduates to go on to college or technical training schools — and earn degrees or certifications — so they’ll be able to claim those jobs.
One Company Leaving Memphis May Explain Gaping Hole In Tenn’s Budget (WPLN)
Tennessee finance officials say they’re spending the summer trying to figure out why business taxes have continued to drop even as the economy improves. One explanation may lie with a giant corporation that left the state. The Haslam Administration has blamed loopholes in the tax code, suggesting accountants have gotten more creative, resulting in a $222 million deficit in business tax collections since August compared to budgeted estimates. “I think if there were a loop hole of that significance out there, I’d know about it,” says Brett Carter, a tax attorney with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings who has been investigation other possible causes.
New lab at U of M will give real-world financial trading experience (CA/Backer)
In the fall, students at the Fogelman College of Business and Economics at the University of Memphis will learn how to trade stocks, bonds, futures and other assets in a real-time trading lab. Michael Cook, founder and CEO of Memphis-based SouthernSun Asset Management, along with his wife, Jennifer, recently donated $500,000 to the college to create the lab and to purchase 12 Bloomberg Terminal subscriptions. The service is widely used in financial firms around the globe and allows users to analyze real-time financial market data and place trades on an electronic trading platform.
Trip to China gets MTSU fourth pact (Daily News Journal)
Middle Tennessee State University’s latest delegation to China left the Hunan province Monday after gaining another educational partner and speaking with prospective students at three other institutions, according to a release from the university. President Sidney A. McPhee signed an agreement with Xiangnan University in Chenzhou to allow the two entities to develop student and faculty exchanges, officials said. The agreement follows similar pacts made on this trip with three other China universities. Xiangnan, with an enrollment of about 18,000 students, specializes in teacher training and medical sciences and is affiliated with eight area hospitals.
TWRA offering free inflatable life jackets (WSMV-TV Nashville)
The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency is using a new method to keep you safe while on the state’s waterways – free life jackets. In Tennessee, you have to have a life jacket for every person on board your boat, but getting folks to wear them is another story since it’s not required. TWRA officers think they have a way to get you to wear an inflatable life jacket, which sells for more than $100. They’re giving them away for free, but recipients have to do one thing first. The only catch is that you have to sign a pledge that you’ll wear the life jacket whenever you are in the water.
TWRA says Douglas Lake drowning was a first in years (WATE-TV Knoxville)
Tragedy struck at Douglas Lake Monday morning when a man drowned while unloading his boat. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency told 6 News it’s the first drowning during the holiday weekend since 2012. Investigators say James Arnett, 67 drowned trying to retrieve his boat, drifting into the lake at Inspiration Point Campground just after 9 Monday morning. Bystanders used an anchor and pontoon boat to bring Arnett to the bank. The accident at the boat ramp has campers frightened. “You never think about something like this happening,” said Jerry Adams. Arnett’s boat was not tied up yet, and started drifting deeper into the lake. Investigators say he swam after the boat to catch it, then went under and never resurfaced.
TDOT to resume work on I-40 bridge over Jefferson Street (WSMV-TV Nashville)
Tennessee Department of Transportation crews will resume work on Tuesday on the Interstate 40 bridge over Jefferson Street. One lane of I-40 will be closed in both directions, and the ramps from Jefferson Street and 28th Avenue to I-40 will be closed each night through Saturday. Crews plan to work from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., so the impact on traffic should be minimal.
State Supreme Court hears arguments at Boys State (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Supreme Court will hear cases in Cookeville this week at the American Legion’s Boys State, which takes place at Tennessee Technological University. The court’s change of venue is part of a program that gives students a chance to study Supreme Court cases and then hear those cases argued in person. The court has heard dozens of cases before tens of thousands of students over the past 19 years. The arguments on Thursday will mark the 13th time the court has participated in Boys State — where hundreds of high school juniors spend a week learning about government with activities that simulate local, county and state government roles.
Sen Ford blames ill health for missing nearly half of Senate days (CA/Locker)
Tennessee lawmakers passed historic legislation this year offering free community college to high school graduates, resurrecting possible use of the electric chair and cracking down on gangs and domestic violence. But when those and several other bills with far-reaching impact came up for Senate floor votes, residents of Shelby County’s sprawling 29th Senate District had no vote there. Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, who has represented the district from Whitehaven to Downtown to Millington for eight years, was absent for 20 of the 36 days that the Senate met in floor sessions this year — including the last week and a half of the session when scores of the most important and sometimes contentious bills flow through the chamber for debate and approval or rejection.
Blackburn takes side of Internet service providers in FCC debate (TN/Barton)
When it comes to the Internet’s future, Rep. Marsha Blackburn continues to side with “service providers” like Comcast and Verizon against “content providers” like Google and Netflix. Internet service providers are also some of her largest campaign contributors. In questioning Tom Wheeler, Federal Communications Commission chairman, at a House hearing last week, Blackburn, a Republican who represents Tennessee’s 7th District, portrayed Google and Netflix as wanting regulatory benefits without paying for them. She particularly cited their lobbying for “Net neutrality,” the idea that Internet service providers give equal access to different content and applications instead of discriminating through pricing or slower loading speeds.
Unlikely Allies Uniting to Fight School Changes (New York Times)
She is a fan of MSNBC, supports abortion rights and increased government spending in schools, and believes unions should have the right to strike. He watches Fox News, opposes abortion and is a fiscal conservative who voted three years ago to strip teachers unions of collective bargaining rights. Yet Emily Mitchell, a wiry, 4-foot-9-inch Democrat and first-grade teacher at David Youree Elementary School here, sees State Representative Rick Womick, a 6-foot-2-inch conservative Republican, as an important ally. Their common cause: battling new high-stakes standardized tests and some other hot-button policies in public education.
Delayed care, fraud point to ailing VA (Arizona Republic)
A medical network with roughly 9 million patients, 950 facilities and 85 million annual appointments is bound to have glitches, but critics say the VA Health Care System’s rash of problems reveals an ailing agency. From Phoenix to Albuquerque to Walla Walla, Wash., whistle-blower allegations of delayed care and falsified records continue, accompanied by heartbreaking tales from veterans and their families. The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General is now investigating medical facilities for military veterans in 26 cities. “It’s an agency that’s sick, with an operating room full of people with scalpels wanting to cut,” observed Donald Kettl, dean at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.
New aquatic center part of TVA upgrade (Associated Press)
A new aquatic center and hatchery is under construction along the Cumberland River as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s plan to upgrade its coal-fired plant in Gallatin. The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1k2LlPR) reports the federal utility is spending nearly $1.5 million to construct the new Cumberland River Aquatic Center. It will replace an older facility that was removed as part of a $1 billion clean-air project. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will operate the facility and the TVA will provide services including enough river water to care for all the species housed there.
Serious accidents draw attention to safety at ORNL (Knox News-Sentinel/Munger)
Two accidents this spring, including one with serious injuries, have put safety in the spotlight at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and drawn the scrutiny of the Department of Energy. The first accident occurred March 31 at an off-site warehouse used to store surplus materials. A lab worker suffered two broken legs and a broken thumb when a heavy piece of physics equipment fell on him as he and a co-worker were attempting to load the 1,400-pound “scattering chamber” onto a truck. The top-heavy chamber reportedly tipped over at the uneven juncture of the truck and the loading dock, trapping the worker underneath.
Fired Y-12 guard wants vindication (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Munger)
Kirk Garland lost his job, his home and his health following the July 28, 2012, break-in at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. But he hasn’t lost his fight. Garland returned to Y-12 last month for a difficult six-hour arbitration hearing, where once again he defended his actions as the first guard on the scene of the biggest security breach in the plant’s history. He said he might not have done everything perfectly, but he said he got the job done and didn’t deserve to be fired or made a scapegoat for the embarrassing intrusion.
Mt. Juliet looks to reduce liquor tax debt to schools (Tennessean/Humbles)
Mt. Juliet owes nearly $450,000 in liquor taxes to Wilson County public schools, but city officials don’t want to pay all of that. City leaders say that in previous years, Mt. Juliet waived building fees for new school construction and that should count toward the debt. Wilson County Schools and the Lebanon Special School District are among multiple districts in Tennessee that discovered last year they are owed money because of a state law that had gone unnoticed. It requires cities to pay a portion of liquor-by-the-drink proceeds to local school systems. Lebanon owes just over $811,000 from 1999 to September 2013. Mt. Juliet’s tax debt goes back to 2001, the year after it approved liquor by the drink.
Bill Hagerty: Tennessee must seize export advantage (Commercial Appeal)
For business leaders, choosing to expand is always a challenge. Even when opportunities seem obvious, making decisions about investing capital, allocating resources and whether or not to trust one’s business instincts can be an exhausting process. Fortunately for many Tennessee businesses, the case for increasing revenues through exporting is compelling. And doing business in Tennessee has never been a surer bet. While the nation has experienced less than favorable economic conditions in the past few years, Tennessee’s success in landing new projects sets us up for a terrific run relative to the broader global economy.
Editorial: Late TCAP results earn failing grade for department (News-Sentinel)
Tests administered to students under the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program matter. Until they don’t. Intentional or not, that was the message the Tennessee Department of Education sent last week to school systems in an 11th-hour notification that it would be tardy in releasing TCAP scores this year. School systems across the state were blindsided by the delay. State law requires that TCAP scores be included as a portion — between 15 and 25 percent — of the second-semester grades for students in grades 3-8. Report cards were supposed to go home with Knox County students last Wednesday, the last day of classes.