This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
TN Promise Program gets support from School Board (Newport Plain Talk)
The Cocke County School Board met Thursday to discuss the many topics that made up their agenda for the evening. Among the things discussed was the new TN Promise Program that was recently implemented by Gov. Bill Haslam. With this new program, graduating high school seniors would be given the opportunity to attend a two year college or technical school for free. The TN Promise Program, driven by TN Achieves and the Hope Lottery Scholarship, would foot the bill for these students, as long as they met a specified list of requirements.
Jacksonian to walk in first WGU Tenn. Commencement (Jackson Sun)
Jackson resident Julia Mosier will receive her bachelor’s of arts in interdisciplinary studies at Western Governors University Tennessee’s first commencement ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville today. WGU Tennessee is the state’s accredited, nonprofit university launched last year as part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative. Since WGU Tennessee launched in 2013, the student body has grown to more than 1,000 — an increase of more than 30 percent “We are so proud of our graduates and look forward to celebrating with them at WGU Tennessee’s inaugural commencement,” said Dr. Kimberly K. Estep, chancellor of WGU Tennessee.
WGU Tennessee’s First Graduating Class to Claim Diplomas (WTVF-TV Nashville)
A group of students are about claim their diplomas and be a part of a local university’s first graduating class. Western Governors University (WGU) Tennessee will hold its first commencement ceremony on Saturday. The non-profit online university started last year as part of Governor Haslam’s “Drive to 55.” The initiative aims to bring the percentage of Tennesseans with college degrees or certifications to 55% by the year 2025. Friday night, WGU students and their families gathered at the Renaissance Hotel for a pre-graduation celebration. The university currently has about 1200 students, many of whom are adults who have some college credit, but never completed their degrees.
Plastics Recycling Company Considering Memphis Relocation (M. Daily News)
A company that recycles and manufactures post-industrial plastics is considering relocating from Arkansas to Memphis. RE-CY, or RE-CY Plastics, is considering acquiring a facility on Winchester Road to recycle and manufacture plastics, which are then used for automotive parts, decking and IKEA furniture. The business, which has 15 employees now, currently has the ability to process around 20 million pounds of material each year and would like to increase that to 35 million pounds. The company would buy a building at 611 Winchester Road and invest $6.7 million in the relocation and expansion, including moving some equipment from, Searcy, Ark., according to the company’s request for tax incentives from the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis and Shelby County.
TCAP results can help parents help child’s learning (WSMV-TV Nashville)
Now that the confusion is over and TCAP scores are here, what will parents do with the scores? Summer is a great time for students to make up for lost time or lost lessons and the TCAP results can be a guidebook for where to start. Christian Smith, 11, will be spending a few hours each week in tutoring sessions. “For instance math, that’s a subject he really struggles with,” said Katrina Smith, Christian’s mom. “Fifth grade has been such a hard year.” It’s something his parents insist is necessary after reviewing his TCAP scores. They knew, like many students, Christian would need some extra help.
First chikungunya case confirmed in Tennessee (Tennessean/Wilson)
The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed Friday evening the first case in the state of chikungunya, a mosquito-borne disease circulating in Caribbean nations. Officials say a Madison County resident has contracted the disease, which is known to cause swelling and joint and feet pain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus is typically transmitted by mosquito bites. While the effects of the disease usually last about a week, health officials are concerned it could become as widespread as the West Nile or La Crosse viruses.
1st case of new mosquito-borne illness confirmed in Tenn. (WKRN-TV Nashville)
The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed the first case of a new mosquito-borne illness in the state. According to laboratory results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person in Madison County tested positive for chikungunya. The virus is widespread in the Caribbean, with more than 100,000 suspected cases reported. Several people from Tennessee and other states who traveled to the Caribbean now show symptoms of chikungunya. The illness causes a sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, nausea, sensitivity to light, vomiting, rash and severe joint pain.
State confirms first case of chikungunya in TN (WSMV-TV Nashville)
The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed the first case of chikungunya in Tennessee, officials reported Friday. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention lab results showed a Madison County resident in West Tennessee tested positive for the virus. The state health department reminds residents of the importance of taking precautions to protect themselves from bites from mosquitoes that may spread chikungunya and other viruses like West Nile and La Crosse. According to the health department, multiple people from Tennessee and other states who have recently traveled to the Caribbean now have symptoms of the illness.
Health Officials Confirm First Case Of Chikungunya In Tennessee (WTVF-TV Nash)
The Tennessee Department of Health announced it’s confirmed the first case of chikungunya in Tennessee. Chikungunya is a virus carried by mosquitoes, and it originates from the Caribbean. Test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a resident of Madison County in west Tennessee tested positive for the virus. Several Tennesseans have been tested after showing symptoms of the illness. At this time, people most at risk are those returning from travel to the Caribbean. Chikungunya is widespread there with more than 100,000 suspected cases reported.
1st case of chikungunya virus found in Tennessee (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
State health officials have confirmed the first case of a new mosquito-borne virus that’s running rampant in the Caribbean. The Tennessee Department of Health said Friday evening that a person from Madison County, that’s in West Tennessee near Jackson, has been diagnosed with chikungunya. Multiple people from Tennessee and other states who have recently traveled to the Caribbean now have symptoms of the illness. More than 100,000 cases of the illnesses have been reported in the Caribbean. People most at risk are those returning from travel to the Caribbean, but while there have been no reported cases of mosquitoes here passing on the virus, it can’t be completely ruled out.
Mission workers, vacationers at risk for chikungunya (Tennessean/Wilemon)
Members of church mission groups returning from Haiti are among those reporting symptoms of chikungunya, and the mosquito-borne disease is also circulating in several other Caribbean nations. Robert Tomsett, a physician assistant with GracePointe Healthcare in Franklin, has heard their stories. “I’ve seen some folks that were travel patients who came back with assumed chikungunya,” he said. “They came to see me for other things but told me they had all the symptoms, and some people traveling with them to Haiti had come down with the disease and confirmed.”
Health inspectors keep Bonnaroo grounds safe (WSMV-TV Nashville)
Thousands of music fans are making Manchester their home this weekend at Bonnaroo. Before the first music note was played, state health inspectors were canvassing the area. Crews with the Tennessee Department of Health were fanning out across the farm Friday morning making sure everything was in order. “They are pretty much looking for the same risk factors that they would at a regular restaurant inspection,” said Hugh Atkins, director of environmental health for the Tennessee Department of Health. Atkins said his inspector started going tent-by-tent Tuesday, inspecting more than 200 vendors, scrambling to get everyone permitted before the gates opened, focusing first on the food vendors.
Bar association poll shows support for retention (Times Free-Press/Sher)
Nine out of 10 lawyers in a Tennessee Bar Association poll recommend voters “retain” the three state Supreme Court justices on the Aug. 7 ballot. Result of the association’s first-ever Candidate Evaluation Poll, conducted over the last two weeks, were released Friday. State bar association officials decided to conduct the poll as Republican state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey leads an unprecedented effort to persuade voters to reject the three justices, all of whom were appointed by Democratic governors. Tennessee appellate judges, including Supreme Court justices, do not run in traditional competitive elections.
Lawyers Want To Keep Tennessee Supreme Court Justices (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
The Tennessee Bar Association is all but endorsing three Supreme Court justices sitting for retention elections this year. The group released a poll Friday showing 90 percent of respondents favor keeping the court as it is. The Bar has a policy of not making endorsements in judicial elections. It’s never even polled its members until this year. The association wanted to counter an effort by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey to unseat three justices appointed by Democrats. More than 2,000 attorneys weighed in. Three-quarters recommended retaining the current justices. Nine out of 10 highly recommended them.
Survey: State’s lawyers recommend keeping targeted justices (N. Post)
Nine out of 10 lawyers responding to a poll by the Tennessee Bar Association recommend voters retain three sitting Supreme Court justices targeted in a partisan campaign pushing for their removal. The survey released Friday is the first-ever organized by the TBA, which is publicizing the results in an effort to inform the public of lawyers’ opinions before voters head to the polls for the August election. The association says the poll reflects the opinion of its members and the TBA itself is not getting involved.
Joe Carr gets a boost, but still faces uphill battle (Tennessean/Sisk)
The defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by a tea party challenger has given a boost to state Rep. Joe Carr’s campaign for the Senate. But the Lascassas Republican still appears to face an uphill battle as he tries to beat two-term U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. David Brat, a little-known college professor from central Virginia, shocked political observers nationwide earlier this week when he upset one of the nation’s most powerful Republican lawmakers by 10 percentage points with little outside support. The surprise victory has given new hope to Tennessee tea party activists, who hope a similar feat can be achieved here.
Affordable Care Act threatens employee health benefits, new survey shows (NBJ)
About 60 percent of human resource executives for 360 of the largest U.S. employers say the Affordable Care Act will fail in its effort to make the health care system better, a new survey shows. Their stance is rooted in struggles to retain employee health benefit packages under the federal health law enacted in 2010, according to the American Health Policy Institute, a nonprofit research and policy think tank. The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, is reducing employers’ options for offering health benefits while driving many into high-deductible insurance plans, which cost workers more money, the May survey shows.
Hospital charges keep on climbing: Data shines light on changes (TFP/Harrison)
There’s one clear fact about the murky, ever-shifting world of hospital charges: They always get higher. And the speed with which they can rise is revealed in a trove of new Medicare data, released last week, that shows how much hospitals across the nation bill for their most common procedures. In the Chattanooga region, for example, hospitals increased charges for most of their treatments between 2011 and 2012 — by 10, 20 and even more than 30 percent, in some cases. This is the second year that Medicare — the federal health insurance program for people 65 or older — has released the hospital billing data, which previously had been kept under wraps.
Study: Tennessee’s manufacturing climate is solid but worker quality is poor (MBJ)
Tennessee is on solid footing when it comes to its manufacturing sector but lacks quality labor, according to a study released Thursday by Ball State University. Overall, Tennessee received a grade of B for its manufacturing climate, scoring well for the state’s strong logistics industry, but came up short in the “human capital” component. That section of the report includes rankings of educational attainment at the high school and collegiate level, the first-year retention rate of adults in community and technical colleges, the number of associates degrees awarded annually on a per capita basis, and the share of adults enrolled in adult basic education. In that category, the state scored a D.
California: Lawmakers Are Set to Pass $156.4 Billion Budget Plan (Wall St. Journal)
California lawmakers are set to pass a record $156.4 billion budget plan ahead of the state’s constitutional deadline this Sunday, according to a deal announced Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislative leaders. The spending plan, with a $108 billion general fund, is a compromise between Mr. Brown’s approach, which prioritized savings and paying down the state’s debts and unfunded liabilities, and that of Democrats in the state legislature who fought to restore social services and take steps to combat poverty. The agreed upon budget includes a $1.6 billion payment to the state’s rainy day fund, the first since 2007.
Guest columnist: State provides details about Common Core (Daily News Journal)
Tennessee’s standards are a set of clear standards for math and English language arts that were developed to ensure every student graduates high school prepared for college or the workforce. The standards reflect rigorous learning benchmarks set by countries whose students currently outperform American students on international assessments. Why did Tennessee adopt these standards in ELA and math? Tennessee is committed to ensuring high school students graduate prepared for college or the workforce. In 2011, only 15 percent of Tennessee students graduate at a college-ready level.
Guest columnist: New school standards lack logic (Daily News Journal)
Some feel that the Common Core State Standards program is a conspiracy; it is not. It is a meticulously crafted experimental plan, which is illogical at best and dangerous at the least. CCSS should be examined closely before adoption for three main reasons: First, the premises upon which it is based are shaky. The transiency problem, where children moving frequently lose out educationally, is said to be 20 percent. Actual state department data puts it at between 2-5 percent. Do we want to change a system that is working well for such a small percentage of children? The CCSS standards are not based on standards of foreign nations, as claimed. They are “informed” by them, a vague term.
Guest columnist: Myths fill Common Core debate (Daily News Journal)
I want to explain why Common Core is among the most important education ideas in years. The standards are just that: standards, similar to those that have guided teachers in all states for years, except these standards are inspired by a simple and powerful idea: Every American student should leave high school with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and in the job market. Since the standards mark a big change, it makes sense that parents, teachers and students are asking questions. But in the back-and-forth, dangerous misconceptions are starting to crystalize: Myth: Common Core was created without involving parents, teachers or state and local governments. In fact, the standards were sponsored by organizations made up of governors and school officials.