This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Governor Haslam seeks to quell state’s pill problem (Associated Press)
Tennessee Governor. Bill Haslam has a plan to quell prescription drug abuse, which has become a scourge across the state. The Tennessean reports Haslam intends to announce details of the seven-point plan on Tuesday. The state estimates that nearly 70,000 residents have serious addictions to controlled substances. Addiction experts say they fear drug users will just turn to heroin, which has been making a comeback across the nation. Dr. Terry Alley with Cumberland Heights said addicts will need access to effective treatment for the state strategy to work.
Haslam to announce plan to fight prescription drug abuse in TN (WSMV-TV Nash)
Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to announce a major plan Tuesday to fight drug abuse across Tennessee. It comes just days after Metro police seized thousands of Xanax pills in a bust that started on the other side of the country. Investigators say a package containing 5,000 pills – estimated at $5 each in street value – arrived from California to an apartment on Brooksmill Circle. Three people were arrested, and police say postal inspectors blocked an additional 16,000 pills from arriving. Haslam plans to announce the Prescription for Success initiative, which includes a seven-part plan to stop the illegal prescription drug trade.
Gov. Haslam to Unveil Plan to Fight Prescription Drug Abuse (WBBJ-TV Memphis)
A new plan from governor Bill Haslam will be unveiled soon. This, after numbers show that Tennessee ranks number two in the nation for prescription drug abuse. Haslam will reveal the seven-point plan Tuesday. The state estimates nearly 70,000 residents have addictions to controlled substances. Addiction experts said they fear drug users will turn to heroin. Workers at the Jackson Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency disagree. Tennessee records show the number of people being treated for these type of addictions rose from 15.1 percent to 15.7 percent in the last three years.
Gov. Haslam seeks solution to reduce state’s pill problem (WVLT-TV Knoxville)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has a plan to quell prescription drug abuse, which has become a scourge across the state. Haslam intends to announce details of a seven-point plan on Tuesday. The state estimates that nearly 70,000 residents have serious addictions to controlled substances.
Governor To Navigate Divisive Issue Of Prescription Drug Abuse (WPLN-Radio)
Tennessee ranks second in the nation for the amount of prescription painkillers sold, and studies show one out of 20 people age 12 or older in the state is misusing them. Gov. Bill Haslam and the state’s top mental health official Doug Varney are calling prescription drug abuse a “widespread epidemic,” and they plan to lay out their strategies on tackling the problem Tuesday. So far, divisions have emerged over the the best solution. Earlier this year, the state legislature discussed repealing a law that some say gives physicians too much leeway to prescribe potentially dangerous pain relievers.
TDOC investigating after inmates attack 2 guards at Riverbend (WSMV-TV Nash)
Two guards at the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville are recovering after being attacked by inmates over the weekend. The Tennessee Department of Correction issued a statement, saying it is “investigating a weekend incident in which two inmates assaulted two staff members.” The correctional officers who sustained injuries were treated and released at a Nashville hospital and are now recovering at home. The inmates will face disciplinary action, and the case will be referred to the district attorney for criminal prosecution.
New APSU president looks to keep positive momentum going (Leaf Chronicle)
An accomplished Tennessee native is coming home with a new and prominent role. Last week, Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan recommended Alisa White be named Austin Peay State University’s next president. The Tennessee Board of Regents met via a phone conference Monday to vote on Morgan’s recommendation. The vote was unanimous, and White, currently provost and senior vice present for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas at Tyler, will take office on June 30. Joining the conference call from the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, White expressed elation and honor as she spoke to the board.
House speaker Harwell tours new nursing wing at UT Martin Parsons Center (J Sun)
Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell toured the new nursing wing at the University of Tennessee Martin Parsons Center on Monday. The new wing, called the West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation Nursing Wing, will open in August and house the UT Martin Parsons Center’s new bachelor of science in nursing program. The university received grants of $1 million from both the state of Tennessee and the West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation to fund the project. “It’s good to be able to do something like this on the budget level, and then it’s nice to come and see it in person,” Harwell said.
Group raises $600,000 to fend off GOP detractors of 3 Tenn. justices (TFP/Sher)
A bipartisan group backing the retention of three Tennessee Supreme Court justices says it has raised $600,000 so far as the incumbents seek to fend off a move led by Republican state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey to defeat them. Keep Tennessee Courts Fair says it “surpassed expectations” by raising the amount quickly. The campaign is supporting Chief Justice Gary Wade and fellow Justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee. The three justices are each up on yes-no votes on the August ballot. “The outpouring of support from Republican and Democrats who recognize the importance of supporting our Tennessee Constitution is just phenomenal,” said Brenda Gadd, Keep Tennessee Courts Fair campaign manager, in a news release.
Wait times at Midstate VA hospitals longest in nation (Tennessean/Roche, Gang)
Veterans seeking health care in Middle Tennessee face the longest delays in the nation, new government data show. Veterans hoping to see a doctor for the first time in the VA’s Nashville and Murfreesboro hospitals wait an average of 65 days to see a physician, well beyond the 14-day target window put in place by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials, according to data released to USA Today. The VA has been under fire nationwide over wait times, and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned last week. His departure came after a VA Inspector General Audit found that some VA staffers around the country manipulated records to hide delays in care for veterans, a revelation that also raises questions about the most recent data released by the department.
Middle Tennessee veterans had to wait more than two months for treatment (DNJ)
Middle Tennessee veterans had to wait more than twice as long as the national average for medical treatment, according to data obtained by USA TODAY. The average wait time in the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, which includes the Alvin C. York Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in Murfreesboro campus along with the Nashville VAMC, was 65 days and only 29.6 percent saw a doctor with the target of 14 days. Nationally, more than 356,000 veterans sought out new medical care in the six months between October 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014.
Veterans Affairs Hospitals Vary Widely in Patient Care (Wall Street Journal)
The Phoenix facility at the heart of the crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs is among a number of VA hospitals that show significantly higher rates of mortality and dangerous infections than the agency’s top-tier hospitals, internal records show. The criticism that precipitated last week’s resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has focused largely on excessive wait times for appointments across the VA’s 150-hospital medical system. But a detailed tabulation of outcomes at a dozen VA hospitals made available to The Wall Street Journal illustrates a deeper challenge: vastly disparate treatment results and what some VA doctors contend is the slippage of quality in recent years at some VA facilities.
Supreme Court refuses to hear Murfreesboro mosque case (Associated Press)
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of a group of neighbors who tried unsuccessfully to block the construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. A board member of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro said he was hopeful that the refusal of the nation’s highest court to hear the case will bring unity back into the community. Neighbors have been arguing since 2010 that approval for construction was illegal because there wasn’t enough public notice for the planning commission meeting where the approval occurred. The mosque was built anyway as the case moved through the courts.
TVA Off to Good Start in Meeting Emissions Goals (Associated Press/Sainz)
The Tennessee Valley Authority says it appears to have a good start in meeting goals set by President Barack Obama’s administration aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The plan unveiled Monday says carbon emissions are to be reduced 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, in what would amount to one of the most significant U.S. actions on global warming. The utility says system-wide carbon emissions are currently 30 percent below 2005 levels – and they are projected to be 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
TVA “expects to exceed” new EPA regulation requirements (Memphis Biz Journal)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today unveiled a plan to cut U.S. power plant emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030, but the Tennessee Valley Authority says it’s already well on its way In a news release, the TVA says that it has made and will continue to make emissions improvements in its energy portfolio, noting that the Obama administration had previously proposed a national goal of reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The TVA says it has already reached that target system-wide and “expects to exceed it.”
TVA, Georgia on pace to meet EPA carbon limits (Times Free-Press/Flessner)
In a sweeping initiative to curb pollutants blamed for global warming, the Obama administration unveiled a plan Monday aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by nearly a third by 2030. But the EPA proposal delays the deadline for some states to begin complying until long after President Barack Obama leaves office. And it may not have much immediate impact in Tennessee and Georgia where utilities have already cut carbon emissions by 30 percent since 2005 and further cuts are planned in the next five years.
TVA on track for emission plan (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Marcum)
TVA already meets and is on track to exceed the targets set in a just-released Obama administration plan for curbing carbon emissions from power plants, TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson said Monday. However, he said TVA had just received the 645-page proposed plan and other documents and would need to digest them to understand what implications they may have for the federal utility. “This appears to be for us a continuation of a trend TVA has been on since 2005,” Johnson said in an afternoon conference call with reporters. The plan, released Monday, calls for reducing the emissions from power plants 30 percent by 2030.
Call for carbon emission cuts expected to hit Tennessee hard (Tennessean/Barton)
In its most sweeping policy proposal yet to address climate change, the Obama administration Monday called for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from existing electric power plants by 2030, with even more required of coal-dependent states like Tennessee. Tennessee Valley Authority officials said they were still evaluating the new regulations and it was too early to gauge the impact on customer bills. They also pointed to major reductions in carbon emissions achieved already. “The devil may be in the details with these rules,” said authority spokesman Duncan Mansfield.
Fight over unionizing Chattanooga VW plant persists (Times Free-Press/Pare)
A top Volkswagen Group works council official said Monday it will continue to work with the United Auto Workers to organize the Chattanooga plant, but a lawyer for anti-union employees said they’ll be ready to fend off a new effort. At the UAW’s convention in Detroit, Frank Patta, the general secretary of VW’s Global Group Works Council, said that February’s election in Chattanooga was “stolen” by conservatives and political leaders, the Detroit Free Press reported. “We lost one battle but we did not lose the entire fight …. I promise, we will go on,” said Patta to a standing ovation from delegates.
Municipal schools take keys (C. Appeal/Bailey, Garlington, Pignolet)
Municipal school systems in Shelby County took a major step Monday toward opening this summer, officially assuming ownership of their buildings from the county school system. While the responsibility for the buildings now falls to the individual suburbs, nothing of significance changed at the facilities from the time employees left work on Friday. The county didn’t change the locks, and the buildings weren’t cleaned out by the former owners over the weekend. They weren’t cleaned up, either. That responsibility now falls to the six municipalities taking over the properties. “It was official, but it wasn’t unofficial,” Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman said.
850 emails wrongly said Wilson Co. students flunked TCAP (Tennessean/Humbles)
Up to 850 emails were erroneously sent Sunday to Wilson County parents that incorrectly stated their children had failing TCAP scores. A software issue caused the erroneous email, but it’s uncertain specifically what occurred. The email was generated from the district’s parent portal for grades called Parent Connect, said Wilson County Interim Director Mary Ann Sparks. However, the grades in Parent Connect are accurate, Sparks said. “As soon as we heard about it we put something on our website yesterday, and today we sent out a phone message,” Sparks said. “And we had people working on it to correct it immediately.”
Charter school request splits Knox board (Knoxville News-Sentinel/McCoy)
Some Knox County school board members appeared divided Monday over an application that would make the Emerald Charter Academy the district’s first such charter school. The proposal by Emerald Charter Schools, a nonprofit created by the Emerald Youth Foundation, calls for teaching kindergartners through eighth-graders and would be modeled after the Breakthrough Schools’ E Prep Middle School and Village Prep Elementary School in Cleveland, Ohio. Officials hope to open it in August 2015. It would start with 120 kindergarten and first-graders, and each subsequent year would add two more grades.
Guest columnist: Higher education cuts hurt families (Tennessean)
To most of us, $19 million is a whole lot of money; it’s certainly much more than the oft-referenced cost of a cup of coffee. But, that’s the specific amount sliced from Tennessee’s allocation to public higher education institutions for the fiscal year beginning on July 1. While the governor was forced to reduce his entire budget after a lackluster year in tax revenue collections, $19 million represented a huge number, both literally and psychologically, to college and university administrators throughout the state. They had “earned” that money by excelling at a new system designed to reward productivity. Student enrollment numbers were no longer the ultimate benchmark.
Guest columnist: Politics has no place in Tennessee appellate courts (Tennessean)
Let’s suppose your spouse dies. Let’s suppose the government decides to charge you with murder. Further, let’s suppose the government decides to introduce evidence that eight years ago you were convicted of assault in an attempt to convince the jury that you committed this murder. But let’s also assume that the assault occurred when you got into an altercation with a neighbor when your small child was injured by his teenage kid, a known bully. Current Tennessee rules of evidence permit the trial judge in a hearing outside the presence of the jury to determine whether your previous conviction may be revealed to the jury, even though that previous conviction obviously has nothing to do with whether you committed the murder with which you are now charged.
Editorial: Office building takeover could benefit city, if no major hidden costs (CA)
“Finding efficiencies” in city government has been one of the clarion calls from the administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and some City Council members during this season’s budget deliberations. Taking that call in the context of the city’s debt problems, it is hard to argue against Memphis taking over the Donnelly J. Hill state office building on Civic Center Plaza. The plaza, on the north end of Downtown, also is home for City Hall, the Vasco A. Smith Jr. County Administration Building and the Clifford Davis/Odell Horton Federal Building.