This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Haslam to address Southland Conference on Tuesday (Associated Press)
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s lone public event this week is scheduled for the Southland Conference on Tuesday. The event billing itself as focusing on “Technology, Entrepreneurship and Southern Culture,” runs from Monday through Wednesday. Haslam addresses attendees on Tuesday morning at the Marathon Music Works near the state Capitol. Other scheduled speakers are former Vice President Al Gore, PayPal President David Marcus and hotel Tonight CEO Sam Shank. A panel of entrepreneurs will judge the best 10 teams to apply in a startup competition, with each investing $10,000 of their own money.
‘There were trees everywhere’: Cleanup begins after storms (Jackson Sun)
Andrea Steed was watching the storm from a window in her Jackson home Saturday evening when she heard two trees crack in her backyard — and slam on top of her roof. “It was just like a swoosh and a big bang, just all at once,” said Steed, who lives on Chester Levee Road. “I hollered for the dog to come on, and we ran for cover in the bathroom. By that time it was pretty much over.” Steed joked on Facebook Sunday morning that people could come to her house for a tree-trimming party. One of Steed’s Facebook friends took her seriously — and she and a group from Meridian Baptist Church arrived at Steed’s house about 1 p.m.
AG: Lottery-ticket pooling operations prohibited in Tenn. (N-S/Humphrey)
In a formal opinion, the state attorney general has declared that Tennessee law prohibits participation in a lottery pool “managed by a third party” — throwing cold water on a Blount County man’s idea for a part-time business, though apparently not on informal pools among friends. State Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, said he requested the opinion from Attorney General Bob Cooper after a “senior citizen” constituent asked if his idea of a part-time retirement business would be legal. Basically, the idea was to collect money for buying a large block of lottery tickets with the agreement that any winnings would be split among purchasers — with the money collector getting a fee for his services or a share of any winnings, Ramsey said.
Wilson Co. lawsuit could influence retiree health-care controversy (CA/Connolly)
In August 1998, just east of Nashville, the Wilson County Commission passed a resolution that made it harder for some retired county employees to stay on government health insurance. That did not sit well with two sheriff’s department employees, Robert Terry Davis and Donald Hamblen. Neither had retired, but they didn’t want to lose a benefit that they might use — and that the government had already offered. “It’s kind of like your daddy giving you a $5 bill on a Saturday night,” Davis said in a recent interview. “Before you start out the door to get in the car, they turn around and want two of it back.”
Surpluses and Tax Cuts for Some States, Deficits for Others (Stateline)
For the first time since the recession ended, state revenues and employment have both surpassed pre-recession levels, at least in the country as a whole. But if this is finally the “good times,” it sure doesn’t feel like it to some states. A majority of states opened their 2014-2015 legislative sessions this year “in a better budgetary position than at any other point since the start of the recession,” said Gabriel J. Petek, an analyst for Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency. But while California, New York and Minnesota are raking in tax revenue and churning out new jobs at a pace exceeding pre-recession levels, other states are still struggling.
Student Debt Relief to Expand (Wall Street Journal)
An expansion of a federal program designed to reduce payments for student-loan recipients is expected to be announced Monday by President Barack Obama, the latest push by Democrats to address concerns about rising student debt. A White House official said the plan would allow as many as five million more Americans with federal student loans to enroll in “Pay As You Earn,” a program that caps borrowers’ monthly student-loan bills at 10% of their income. After 20 years of payments, any remaining debt is forgiven, at a cost to taxpayers. For government workers and those in certain nonprofit jobs, debt would be forgiven after 10 years. Currently, only borrowers who took out new loans after October 2007 are eligible.
New Knox charter school’s connections run deep (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Witt)
Gov. Bill Haslam sits on the board of the local youth foundation that successfully applied to create Knox County’s first charter school. But Haslam, who supports the idea of more charter schools in Tennessee, had no direct input on Emerald Academy, those close to the school proposal said. Nor did Haslam or those connected to him reach out to Knox County Schools officials during the vetting process for Emerald Academy, according to interviews by the News Sentinel. Haslam is an honorary member of the board of trustees for the Emerald Youth Foundation, and so is Larry Martin, his longtime aide and current special adviser for state human resources. “I have not had a conversation with (Haslam) on the charter school,” said Steve Diggs, executive director of the Emerald Youth Foundation.
Guest columnist: Students need support to get to, through college (Tennessean)
This time of year marks an exciting milestone for many high school students throughout Tennessee. It is a time when graduating seniors make a decision that will help shape their future: where to attend college. As the founder and executive director of KIPP Nashville, a network of public charter schools serving students from low-income communities here in Nashville, I’ve been watching our students’ college journeys closely. In recent years, Tennessee has made great progress in helping students get to the threshold of college. Between 2002 and 2010, the number of students from Tennessee high schools enrolling in a two- or four- year college grew from 62 percent to 69 percent.
Guest columnist: Bring transparency to school testing process (Tennessean)
This has been the year of heavy scrutiny of standardized tests. Parents are paying more attention than ever to what kind of testing their children are being subjected to and have started to raise questions. It’s fair to say that a level of distrust has begun to ferment. If there ever was a time for a process to run smoothly and error-free, now is the time. Unfortunately, the Tennessee Department of Education has failed to rise to the challenge (“TN’s Common Core test delay disappoints, concerns Kevin Huffman,” April 17). They have preached the importance of standardized testing to alleviate a crisis in education. These tests are supposedly essential in holding people accountable, yet they can’t even complete their end of the bargain in a timely and transparent fashion.
Editorial: Shifts in Charity Health Care (New York Times)
Health care reform was supposed to relieve the financial strain on hospitals that have provided a lot of free charity care to poor and uninsured patients. The reform law, known as the Affordable Care Act, was expected to insure most of those patients either through expanded state Medicaid programs for the poor or through subsidized private insurance for middle-income patients, thereby funneling new revenues to hospitals that had previously absorbed the costs of uncompensated care. In return for the new income streams, hospitals that treat large numbers of the poor and get special subsidies to defray the cost would have those subsidies reduced on the theory that they would no longer need as much help.