This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Panel OK’s $27 million for West TN megasite (Tennessean/Sisk)
The panel that oversees public construction projects released $27 million for a West Tennessee industrial development, money that officials say will be used to reroute a state highway. The State Building Commission approved a plan Thursday to expand the budget for the Memphis Regional Megasite, a 3,840-acre industrial park under construction next to Interstate 40 between Jackson and Memphis. The commission’s executive subcommittee also agreed to let the Department of Economic and Community Development acquire 265 acres for the megasite, much of it to move State Route 222 and reconnect it with the interstate.
Bradley County’s Amazon facility hiring for 100 full-time positions (Nooga)
Amazon is hiring for more than 100 full-time positions at its Bradley County fulfillment facility, leaders announced Thursday. Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis said that Amazon has helped the area’s unemployment rate drop in recent years. “Amazon’s announcement of more than 100 new full-time jobs at the Charleston fulfillment center, with the comprehensive benefits that come along with them, including health insurance, 401(k) and prepayment for college tuition, is exciting and welcome news,” he also said in a prepared statement. The Charleston facility opened in September 2011 when it shipped its first order, a Bumbo baby seat, to a customer in South Carolina, according to a press release.
Amazon hiring 100 more at Bradley County facility (Times Free-Press/Pare)
Citing higher customer demand, Amazon is adding more than 100 full-time jobs at its Charleston, Tenn., distribution center. The hourly workers will pick, pack and ship orders at the north Bradley County facility, which typically handles larger size goods than Amazon’s Chattanooga fulfillment center, according to the online retailing giant. Amazon has invested in excess of $139 million in Southeast Tennessee and hired more than 2,600 full-time workers since coming to the area in 2011, including more than 2,000 at its Chattanooga operation and more than 600 in Charleston, the company’s latest figures show.
Alstom adds jobs (Nooga)
Alstom is adding about 60 jobs to its gas turbine facility. “Several people have already been hired,” spokeswoman Fallon McLoughlin said via email. “This is a mixture of permanent positions, contract positions, and entry-level technician and apprentice positions.” The jobs are being added because there’s been a pick up in gas projects in the United States, Mexico and Central America, she also said. The Times Free Press, which covered the story Wednesday, also reported that the additions bring the total number of workers to about 170. Inaugurated in June 2010, Alstom’s power systems manufacturing facility provides new and retrofit equipment for nuclear, steam, gas and hydroelectric power plants.
Nissan expansion in Decherd will add up to 400 jobs (Tennessean/Williams)
Nissan will start production on a new line of four-cylinder engines this month that will power both the Infiniti Q50 sport sedan and Mercedes-Benz C-class sedan, eventually adding up to 400 jobs at the powertrain plant in Decherd, Tenn. The Japanese automaker two years ago agreed to a deal with Germany’s Daimler-Benz to make engines in Decherd for the compact Mercedes sedans that will be built at the Daimler factory near Tuscaloosa, Ala. They will be shared with the Infiniti model. A $319 million, 310,000-square-foot facility has been under construction at Nissan’s Decherd plant since May 2012.
Sam Wills joins state agency to push jobs in Tennessee (Times Free-Press)
The former business development director for Chattanooga-based construction company EMJ Corp. will leverage his skills to help companies craft more jobs in Southeast Tennessee. Sam Wills, a 20-year EMJ employee, was tapped by state officials as the new regional director overseeing economic development in the Chattanooga region. He replaces Patsy Hazlewood, who resigned earlier this year to seek a seat in the state House of Representatives. Wills is to oversee the state’s job-growth efforts in Hamilton, Bradley, Bledsoe, Grundy, Marion, Polk, Rhea, McMinn, Meigs and Sequatchie counties.
State tourism marketing targets specific households (WVLT-TV Knoxville)
Tennessee tourism leaders are now marketing to specific households that meet certain criteria. New research by the state is showing experts who would be willing to vacation, their interests and how much money they’d spend. Tourism leaders developed a one minute vacation concept that people on computers can click on and explore parts of Tennessee. “Shows you exactly who you want to talk too, You’ve got great product that you want to put in front of them, and a great way to talk about it, a one minute vacation. We’re starting to see some fabulous results on that,” explained Susan Whitaker, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
State Building Commission OKs projects (Commercial Appeal/Locker)
The State Building Commission on Thursday approved new parking spaces at the University of Memphis, improvements at its Lambuth Campus in Jackson, new football stadium facilities at the University of Tennessee at Martin and a highway rerouting at the Memphis Regional Megasite in Haywood County. The campus parking expansion affects the U of M’s main campus and its South Campus on Park Avenue. The university had planned to expand its parking lots on Zach Curlin Street but was unable to obtain property owned by Memphis Light, Gas & Water to the east of the existing lots.
Agriculture Officials Unveil Industrial Hemp Webpage, Draft Licensing Regs (TNR)
An informational page has sprouted up on the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s main website that digs into some of the questions and issues surrounding the legal status of industrial hemp cultivation in the Volunteer State state. The page also serves to get the ball rolling on the development of state regulations and licensing processes to allow farmers to grow it, as the department has been directed by the Legislature. “We fully intend to have a workable draft of rules and regulations within the next few weeks as we gather some more information and as we get input from subject-matter experts,” Tennessee Agriculture Department spokesman Tom Womack told TNReport.
Tennessee Highway Patrol cadets to receive badges (Associated Press)
Fifty Tennessee Highway Patrol cadets will receive their badges at a graduation ceremony on Friday. Tennessee Transportation Commissioner John Schroer will be the keynote speaker at the event at Hermitage Hills Baptist Church in Hermitage. It’s scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Also scheduled to attend the graduation are Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott. For more information about the Tennessee Highway Patrol, visit http://www.tn.gov/safety/thp.shtml .
Musical inspired by Sen. Stacey Campfield planned (Tennessean/Sisk)
Hitting the box offices soon: A musical about state Sen. Stacey Campfield. A Nashville theater group, Music City Theatre Company, is planning an “original political satirical show” around one of the state’s most outspoken Republican lawmakers. “Casey Stampfield: The Musical” debuts June 27 at Vibe Entertainment Complex on Church Street and runs through July 12, with a special performance on primary day, Aug. 7. Tickets are $9.99. The show is a 45-minute, five-player revue, said co-writer and co-director Michael McFadden. Promotion materials depict the lawmaker dancing in a tuxedo and American flag top hat, though we wouldn’t be shocked if at least one luchador mask comes out.
Blackburn bill on prescription abuse clears committee (Tennessean/Barton)
The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday approved a bill Rep. Marsha Blackburn co-sponsored to curb abuse of prescription medicines. The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act was introduced earlier this year by Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa. Blackburn, R-Brentwood, is an original co-sponsor, along with two Democrats, Reps. Peter Welch of Vermont and Judy Chu of California. The bill now goes to the House floor. A key part of the proposed legislation clarifies the Controlled Substances Act, making it easier for the Drug Enforcement Administration to suspend narcotics licenses of those in the supply chain whose actions have shown they pose an “imminent danger” to public health.
No Child Left Behind wasn’t so bad for teachers, study finds (Tennessean/Garrison)
Has the vilification of No Child Left Behind as a source of consternation for teachers been unwarranted? A new study by a team of researchers that included Jason Grissom of Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development found a lack of evidence that the controversial George W. Bush-era education law has eroded teachers’ job satisfaction. NCLB — which the Obama administration waived in Tennessee and 33 other states — is credited with ushering in a new era of education accountability in K-12 education by relying more than ever on test results.
Common Core Sparks Flood of Legislation (Stateline)
Stephen Colbert mocked it. Comedian Louis C.K. called it a “massive stress ball that hangs over the whole school.” And lawmakers in state capitols spent countless hours over the past few months debating it. Their target is the Common Core, a set of math and English language arts standards voluntarily adopted beginning four years ago by all but a handful of states. The standards define what students should know and be able to do by the end of each grade. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia initially signed onto the standards in both math and language arts (Minnesota adopted only the language arts standards), hoping to better prepare students for college and careers by the time they graduate from high school.
Outside the VA, waits for doctors can vary widely (Associated Press/Neergaard)
It’s not just veterans who sometimes have to wait for health care. Depending on where you live and what kind of care you want, in parts of the country it’s not always easy for new patients to get a quick appointment. Need routine primary care? The average wait to see a family physician for the first time ranged from 66 days in Boston to just five days in Dallas, according to a survey in 15 large cities by health care consulting firm Merritt Hawkins. And doctors are bracing for new demand from millions of people newly insured through the federal health care law.
GM parts maker considers move to Spring Hill (Tennessean/Page)
An out-of-state company that manufactures parts for General Motors is considering relocating its facility to south Spring Hill, less than a mile from the local GM manufacturing plant. The parts maker, which city officials are not yet disclosing at the request of the company, is proposing to build a 122,000-square-foot industrial building on 162.5 acres of farmland on Beechcroft Road near the intersection of Cleburne Road, according to city planning documents. Chad Meyer, chief operating officer for Missouri-based NorthPoint Development Group, which would build the facility, recently told planning commissioners that the parts manufacturer already has said it will need about 250,000 square feet for its first phase.
Greg Johnson: Lawmaker resistant to school reforms (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asked one very pertinent, very important question when he visited Tennessee last month: “Where is our collective outrage over our nation’s achievement gaps and the fact that millions of our children still don’t receive equal educational opportunity?” A basketball-playing buddy of his boss, President Barack Obama, Duncan praised Tennessee leaders for making “controversial but common-sense decisions” that are making an impact on educational achievement. Duncan said a “courage gap” and an “action gap” prevent ending the achievement gap.
Editorial: College borrowers need help repaying burdensome loans (C. Appeal)
With the cost of a college education increasing and another tuition and fee hike a possibility at Tennessee’s state colleges, President Barack Obama’s executive order capping student loan payments is welcome news. The president signed the order Monday, which intends to lessen the college loan burden on nearly 5 million younger Americans by capping repayments at 10 percent of the borrower’s monthly income. U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, said the move will help an estimated 103,736 citizens of Tennessee with student loan debt, according to the Domestic Policy Council and the Council of Economic Advisers.