This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Flooding ‘extremely scary’ (Jackson Sun)
As Eddie Woods Sr. stood on his porch Thursday afternoon watching the rain fall, he saw the creek beside his house quickly fill up, overflow and wash over his front yard. The water rose up to his porch and nearly flooded the inside of his house on Woodlawn Avenue in Carroll County. Other families on his street were evacuated from their homes. No serious injuries were reported in Carroll County, but flood waters washed out roads, seeped into buildings and stranded drivers and residents who had to be rescued by emergency officials. Exact rainfall totals were not known Thursday, but estimates in various parts of the county ranged from 2 to 7 inches.
THP warns against unattended children in vehicles (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Highway Patrol is urging motorists not to leave children or pets in unattended vehicles, especially as summer temperatures begin to rise. Preliminary reports indicate that eight children have already died this year due to heat stroke. None of those fatalities were in Tennessee. According to the latest statistics, there were 44 heat stroke deaths involving children in the United States in 2013. Experts say the temperature inside a car can reach potentially deadly levels within minutes on a typical summer day. Tennessee is among 20 states that have laws that prohibit leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.
TDOT asks drivers to ‘Buckle up, y’all’ (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
Drivers on the interstate may have noticed the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s new sign, “Buckle up, y’all.” State officials often change interstate signs with messages for drivers like “Don’t text and drive” and “Don’t drink and drive.” The “Buckle up, y’all” message comes after TDOT and departments across the country wrapped up their “Click It of Ticket” campaigns, which ended Sunday.
Bell Plans Hearing Over Chief Justice Complaint (Associated Press)
Two state senators say they plan an inquiry over the handling of a complaint against the chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. The Tennessean reports Sens. Mike Bell and Randy McNally said on Tuesday that the Senate Government Operations Committee will hold a formal hearing this month into the dismissal of Bell’s ethics complaint against Chief Justice Gary Wade. The Riceville Republican wanted Wade disciplined for allegedly violating rules about judges lobbying and endorsing candidates. Wade has denied wrongdoing, and the Board of Judicial Conduct declined to take up Bell’s complaint.
Milligan students voice concern over The Tennessee Promise’ (J. City Press)
When Gov. Bill Haslam announced his new legislation, “The Tennessee Promise” — an effort to create a community college program for all high school graduates — a few Milligan College students felt the need to share their opinions on the proposal. So Logan Foshie, of Whitesburg; Louisa “Lucy” Gaudiano, of Johnson City; and Ruth Aramburu, of Kingsport, hit the road for Capitol Hill in Nashville. Throughout the day, the trio met with Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and 17 other representatives, senators, congressional leaders and policy analysts.
Tennessee to receive share of $105 million drug settlement (M. Biz Journal)
Tennessee is set to receive $3 million from a $105 million settlement with GlaxoSmithKline LLC to resolve allegations the company unlawfully promoted its asthma drug, Advair, and antidepressant drugs, Paxil and Wellbutrin. The complaint and final judgment was filed June 4 in Davidson County Circuit Court. According to the complaint, GlaxoSmithKline misrepresented the uses and qualities of drugs, including representing Advair as a first line treatment for all asthma patients. The company also reportedly provided financial incentives for sales representatives to promote Advair for mild asthma patients.
Rep. Diane Black lobbies Senate Democrats on abortion (Tennessean/Barton)
Rep. Diane Black wants Senate Democratic leaders to allow a vote on prohibiting abortions past 20 weeks of a pregnancy. Late last week, Black, R-Gallatin, and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., led 105 lawmakers, including some Democrats, in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, urging him to allow a vote on a bill prohibiting such abortions. By a vote of 228-196, representatives passed a measure they dubbed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act on June 18, 2013. Abortion opponents point to studies showing fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks of development.
Hilleary named to head Tracy’s campaign against DesJarlais (TFP/Sher)
Former Congressman Van Hilleary will be Republican Jim Tracy’s honorary campaign chairman in Tracy’s 4th Congressional District GOP primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais. Tracy named Hilleary, a native of Rhea County, to the post Thursday morning in an announcement on the steps of the Rhea County Courthouse. “I’ve known Jim and his wife Trena for many years, and have always been impressed with their integrity, their friendly and approachable nature, and their sincerely held conservative values,” Hilleary said in a statement. “I can say without reservation that Jim Tracy is the type of strong and effective conservative leader we need in Congress to get our country back on the right track.” Hilleary, formerly of Spring City, represented the 4th Congressional District from 1995 to 2003. Tracy said he is “honored” to have Hilleary on his campaign team.
Sen. Bob Corker dinged for “midget” comment (Nooga)
The U.S. Capitol was abuzz with talk of Sen. Bob Corker, but not for the senator’s recent remarks on Syria or Ukraine. Before a vote Tuesday, Corker said his colleagues on the Senate Banking Committee were too reliant on numbers from the Congressional Budget Office in policy debates. “I’m sorry, it just feels like a bunch of midgets up here worrying about some CBO issue,” he said. Corker’s remark occurs at the 1:10:50 mark in this video. Little People of America said Thursday that Corker’s use of the word “midget” was “embarrassing and insulting,” according to Politico: The nonprofit group, which supports the dwarfism community, sees the word as a “slur.”
Administration Overhauls Federal Health-Care Website (Wall Street Journal)
The Obama administration is revamping HealthCare.gov and scrapping significant parts of the federal health-insurance marketplace in an effort to avoid the problems that plagued the site’s launch last fall, according to presentations to health insurers and interviews with government officials and contractors. But the makeover—and the tight timeline to accomplish it—are raising concerns that consumers could face another rocky rollout this fall when they return to the site to choose health plans. Some key back-end functions, including a system to automate payments to insurers, are running behind schedule, according to a presentation federal officials made to health insurers.
Y-12 replacement redesigned after project cost overruns (TFP/Flessner)
A decade after military planners began its design, the largest construction project in Tennessee is starting over with a new and different layout. The Department of Energy’s Uranium Processing Facility in Oak Ridge has been revamped to help reduce its escalating costs by more than a third. But the head of the federal agency building the proposed $6.5 billion complex said Thursday the project is still needed to upgrade the aging Y-12 weapons plant and the project should still spur business across the Tennessee Valley as it is build in the next decade.
BioFuel firm to expand Memphis plant (Commercial Appeal/Backer, Evanoff)
Ever since oil prices spiked, entrepreneurs have tried to make a river of energy flow out of an old factory in Memphis’ Orange Mound district. Now, a New York investor has put muscle behind plans to double output of fuel ultimately mixed with diesel oil and burned by freight trucks rolling down the highways. Agrileum LLC of Memphis has requested a $1.3 million building permit to expand the factory at 2227 Deadrick near the southwest corner of Lamar and Airways. An old Procter & Gamble site dating to 1914, the plant takes in used cooking oil from Mid-South restaurants and renders it into fuel suited for burning in diesel engines.
Editorial: Rx-abuse strategy is largely unfunded (Tennessean)
Gov. Bill Haslam this week unveiled a strategic plan to combat prescription drug abuse, signaling how seriously he takes this crisis that has crippled so many families. The plan could be transformative for Tennessee, which is second worst in the U.S. for prescription opioid abuse, but we wonder: Will lawmakers embrace it — and, to some extent, will medical professionals? Nearly 5 percent of the state’s 4.8 million adults have used these drugs in the past year for nonmedical purposes. Some 69,000 Tennesseans are addicted to prescription opioids such as hydrocodone, alprazolam and oxycodone, with an additional 151,000 abusing them in ways that could require intervention.