This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Editorial: Prescription drug abuse fight needs funds, leadership (News-Sentinel)
Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to combat prescription drug abuse focuses on reducing the amount of medication prescribed in the state while increasing the resources for intervention and treatment. The approach is solid — intervention and treatment are more cost-effective than incarceration in the long run. But there will be added up-front costs, and the state was hit hard this year by an unexpected revenue shortfall. Haslam and Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Douglas Varney announced the plan on Tuesday. The plan outlines the breadth and depth of Tennessee prescription drug problem.
Gov. Bill Haslam looks over horizon as he runs again (Tennessean/Sisk)
Two months before the Aug. 7 primary and five months before the November general election, Gov. Bill Haslam doesn’t sound like his sole focus is on winning a second term. He sounds like a candidate looking farther out than that. In his first speeches since officially hitting the campaign trail, Haslam has leaped over small matters — such as what he’d do if re-elected — to big themes such as the direction of the Republican Party and the nation at large. Haslam seems to want to get in on the conversation being led by major Republican figures such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who barnstormed the state a few days ago; Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentuckian known to drop into Nashville on occasion; and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Widespread storm damage reported in West Tennessee (Jackson Sun)
The storms that rolled through West Tennessee on Saturday didn’t just cause people to go into a panic when several tornado warnings were issued — they caused power lines to come crashing down, trees to block roadways and damage to several homes. According to reports from the National Weather Service in Memphis, a tornado touched ground in Union City, possibly causing damage to a deer processing plant and Browns Meat Market. A funnel cloud was spotted in Gibson County near Rutherford and another was seen in Chester County near Henderson. Tornadoes hadn’t been confirmed in those areas Saturday evening.
Tennessee puts six new counties under ash borer quarantine (TFP/Omarzu)
The emerald ash borer is as cute as the proverbial bug. But the metallic green beetle that’s killed millions of ash trees since it first appeared about 20 years ago in Michigan isn’t being welcomed by state officials in Tennessee and Georgia. They’ve quarantined more counties recently to try to stem the invasive Asian insect’s spread. On Friday, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture put six new counties under rules that restrict the movement of ash trees and ash tree products: Putnam County in Middle Tennessee, where the ash borer was trapped, and the five counties in the northeastern tip of the state, Sullivan, Washington, Unicoi, Carter and Johnson, where the ash borer likely has spread.
Technology zeroing in on stopping crime before it happens (N-S/Satterfield)
The most dangerous place to be in Tennessee last year was in your own home. There, according to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report, you were most likely to be murdered, kidnapped, raped, assaulted or robbed. The safest place? A cemetery. Violent death most often came calling on a Sunday between 9 p.m. and midnight in April or August. Saturdays were prime time for rapists, who most often attacked between midnight and 3 a.m. in August, and robbers, who showed up most often between 9 p.m. and midnight in October. In Knox County last year, killers favored two extremes — striking most often in the cold of January and the heat of July. Wednesdays were the most deadly for Knox Countians.
School statistics gives law enforcement clearer keys to trouble (N-S/Satterfield)
Crime most often paid a call to Knox County’s schools last year on Tuesday afternoons. There were more assaults and more drug seizures from noon to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays than any other day of the week, a review of Tennessee Bureau of Investigation data showed. Bullying, recorded in police reports only seven times last year, was most often reported on a Monday between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thievery was most often discovered on Mondays, too, between noon and 3 p.m. Statewide, crime reported on school grounds dropped last year. It more than doubled in Knox County, however, from 142 offenses to 292. Local officials offer varying explanations for the increase.
10 Legislative primaries to watch in August (Tennessean/Sisk)
Gov. Bill Haslam appears to be on a glide path to winning re-nomination. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s closest challengers remain far behind him. And the people who hope to represent the Democrats at the top of the ballot this November are an assortment of candidates most Tennesseans have never heard of. When Republicans and Democrats go to the polls two months from now, the most interesting races before them may be those down the ballot. Many legislative races have the potential to provide the upsets and close calls lacking in races higher on the ballot, and a few could have ramifications across the state and beyond.
FEC questions Joe Carr campaign finances (Tennessean/Cass)
The Federal Election Commission has asked U.S. Senate candidate Joe Carr to explain why more than $9,500 on his most recent campaign financial disclosure form appears to have come from a Nashville-based corporation. But Carr’s campaign said the money was a “receipt,” not a contribution. Carr, a state representative from Lascassas, is running in the Aug. 7 primary for the Republican nomination against U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is seeking a third term. The itemized receipts section of Carr’s April 23 financial disclosure listed $9,564.54 from Life Watch Pharmacy, 1838 Elm Hill Pike.
Simple Answer: How IQ ruling affects Tennessee death penalty (Tennessean/Haas)
The U.S. Supreme Court recently threw out Florida’s capital punishment standard on “intellectual disabilities.” How does the court’s decision affect Tennessee’s death penalty? The Supreme Court last month ruled that states can’t use IQ scores as an arbitrary cutoff, legally known as a “bright line,” to determine who can be executed. Florida’s now-defunct law said anyone with an IQ higher than 70 could be executed; those below could not because they were considered “intellectually disabled.” The court ruled IQ scores alone are not enough to determine intellectual disability.
Dedicated group of TVA archaeologists protect artifact sites (NS/Marcum)
At the same time two years ago that TVA hosted a workshop for Native Americans on protecting artifacts, the federal utility also secured convictions against four Alabama men for disturbing Native American remains on TVA property. Many people may not realize the scope of TVA activities when it comes to preserving artifacts on the land TVA manages. They may also not realize the penalties a person could face from taking arrowheads, bottles or other artifacts from TVA land. “We (TVA) had about six convictions last year. The year before that it was about 12,” said Erin Pritchard, Archaeological specialist with TVA.
Chamber urges manufacturing workforce development (Times Free-Press/Leach)
The message was clearly stated at a recent Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce industrial appreciation event: Tennessee is experiencing a “manufacturing renaissance” but still needs to increase the number of skilled laborers. More than 100 industry professionals got a state-level perspective on unskilled labor concerns confronting local manufacturers in a presentation by Catherine Glover, president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Tennessee Manufacturers Association. “With the mass exodus of baby boomers [from the manufacturing sector] there is a major skills gap and employment gap in the state of Tennessee and, indeed, almost every state in the nation,” Glover said.
Nashville charter schools to face special hearing (Tennessean/Garrison)
In a first for Nashville, the Metro Council plans to invite operators of Nashville’s charter schools — and those applying for entry here — for a special city hall appearance to discuss matters ranging from their performance to their finances and future plans. Councilman Steve Glover, who chairs the council’s Education Committee, said a date will soon be determined for a hearing that he framed as an opportunity to provide more accountability for publicly financed, privately operated charters, which are in the midst of a boom in Davidson County.
New day for Hamilton County teachers (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Hardy)
No paper, just a handshake. That’s what Hamilton County teachers can expect come July 1 as the contract they’ve negotiated with the school district for more than 30 years comes to an end. The result will be the loss of guarantees acquired since 1978 through collective bargaining that govern such things as pay, working hours, even air-conditioning in the classroom. District officials say their pact with teachers won’t change, that the 79-page memorandum of agreement negotiated over the years still will be respected. Many of the protections in the document are covered under state law or existing school board policy anyway.
Tom Humphrey: Haslam’s actions might precede surprise moves (News-Sentinel)
If there’s anything surprising about our governor’s campaign for a second term, it’s that he is able — sometimes — to act as if the script had not already been written with an inevitably happy-for-Bill-Haslam ending. Last weekend’s formal announcement that the governor will actually run again (surprised?) was not such an occasion. The scene, by most accounts, could be likened to an inauguration celebrating the conclusion of a journey as much as to the scripted ceremonial starting point. Yes, the governor recalled, back when he ran for a first time the outcome was actually thought by some to be in doubt. He was diplomatic enough to refrain from saying that’s not the case in this go-around. But everybody knows it.
Guest columnist: College should be accessible to all (Tennessean)
In spring 1973, I was looking for a lifeline. I was a senior at Hillsboro High School, and as graduation was approaching, the possibility of me being selected for the Vietnam War lottery was a real threat. This fear — coupled with the fact that I was one of five children with working-class parents — made my prospects for attending college appear dim. Just before graduation, however, two significant events took place that changed my future: President Richard Nixon suspended the lottery for the Vietnam War, and I attended a college fair with my father. The evening of the college fair, right before my father and I walked out the door, a recruiter from Nashville State Technical Institute (now Nashville State Community College) called me over to his table.
Editorial: New nursing ed facilities add to unique opportunity (Jackson Sun)
If you were growing up in Silicon Valley, what would it be good to study in school? If you were going to school in the Detroit area, what would it be good to study? If you were getting your education in Jackson, Tenn., what education path would make sense? The answers, of course, are tied closely to the businesses and industries that flourish in those areas, and where you would likely be able to find a good job. That is not to say education along other lines isn’t a good idea. But it stands to reason that some education alternatives are pretty obvious, based on readily available opportunities and a path to financial success.
Free-Press Editorial: No pressing need to overturn current state justices (TFP)
Major League Baseball players have a shelf life. Nobody’s going to pay them $15 million a year for their ability to pitch a baseball or swing a bat when they’re, say, 56. So they — and their agents — try to get teams to pay them as much money as they can while their skills are marketable. Tennessee state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, has that frame of mind about Republicans and statewide offices. The party holds the governorship and sound majorities in the state House and state Senate. Ramsey would like to include the state Supreme Court and the state attorney general in that list while the getting is good, and he has made it his business to spearhead an effort to do so.
Editorial: Veterans deserve continuing support (Daily News Journal)
Those who serve in the U.S. military have been much on our minds in the past few days. On Friday, the United States and its World War II allies again honored the bravery of those who on June 6, 1944, invaded the beaches of Normandy and helped to bring an end to the war. A reality of that commemoration is time is continuing to take its toll on the number of veterans of D-Day and World War II. Last week also brought a report that veterans who receive medical services at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in Middle Tennessee, including the Alvin C. York Campus in Murfreesboro, face the longest waits for care of any veterans in the United States.