This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Haslam appoints Armstrong judge for Court of Appeals Western Section (J. Sun)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Chancellor Kenny W. Armstrong of Memphis to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section. The appointment will be effective Sept. 1. Armstrong, 66, replaces Judge Holly Kirby, who has been appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. “Chancellor Armstrong has an impressive record of service, and I am pleased to make this appointment,” Haslam said in a news release today. “His experience in public and private practice as well as at the state and federal level will serve the Western Section well.”
Armstrong Appointed to Western Section of TN Appeals Court (TN Report)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Chancellor Kenny W. Armstrong of Memphis to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section. The appointment will be effective September 1, 2014. Armstrong, 66, replaces Judge Holly Kirby, who has been appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. “Chancellor Armstrong has an impressive record of service, and I am pleased to make this appointment,” Haslam said. “His experience in public and private practice as well as at the state and federal level will serve the Western Section well.” Armstrong has been a trial judge in Shelby County Chancery Court since September 2006.
190 jobs coming to Madison County, Governor Haslam announces (WBBJ-TV)
Nearly 200 jobs are coming to Madison County over a span of five years after an automotive parts manufacturer announced it will construct and operate a new manufacturing plant in Jackson. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with Pacific Industries officials announced the plant opening on Wednesday. Plans include the creation of 190 new jobs over the initial five years of operations and a substantial investment in connection with the development and construction of the new facility, which will primarily manufacture metal-stamping products for the automotive industry.
Auto parts maker Pacific Industries to build plant, create 190 jobs (Jackson Sun)
Pacific Industries plans to build a plant in Jackson that will make parts for the auto industry and create 190 jobs within five years. The company will build on 40 acres across from McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport and adjacent to the Kirkland’s Distribution Center on the city’s west side. An additional 20 acres will be available to accommodate growth. The company’s plans were announced this morning at the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. The Japanese-based company supplies automakers with tire pressure monitoring systems, tire valve products and a variety of auto body parts, according to information on its website.
Pacific Industries creating 190 jobs in Jackson (Associated Press)
Auto parts maker Pacific Industries is building a new plant in Jackson, which is expected to create 190 new jobs over the first five years of operations. The facility will focus on making metal stamping and welding operations. The Ogaki, Japan-based company’s current customers include Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mitsubishi. Nissan makes cars in Tennessee and Mississippi, while Toyota has a manufacturing plant in Kentucky. Pacific Industries was founded in 1930 and now has more than 3,000 employees in Japan, Taiwan, Belgium, China, South Korea, Thailand and the United States.
Japanese auto parts manufacturer opening facility in Jackson (M. Biz Journal)
Pacific Industries is planning to build and operate a new manufacturing facility in Jackson, Tenn., the company’s first facility in the Southeast. When it is completed, the Jackson plant will employ 190 people over the first five years. Pacific Industries will manufacture metal-stamping products for the automotive industry. “Teamwork and slowly building a close relationship with Pacific’s site selection team has enabled us to announce new jobs and capital investment for our community,” Jimmy Harris, Madison County’s mayor said in a statement.
Clarcor to build $10M R&D center in Maury County (Tennessean/Williams)
Franklin-based Clarcor, a global leader in filtration products, plans to invest more than $10 million in a state-of-the-art global research and product development center in Maury County. The company said the new Clarcor Innovation Center could create a total of 35 new jobs over the next five years. Clarcor (NYSE: CLC) will now begin renovations of a two-story commercial building with more than 62,000 square feet at 2203 Oakland Parkway in Columbia. The center will include research laboratories, a center for nanofiber production and a Learning Center designed to educate and showcase the company’s technology to customers, new employees and shareholders.
Haslam, Varney in town tomorrow about prescription drug plan (Herald Citizen)
Governor Bill Haslam and Commissioner Doug Varney will be in Cookeville tomorow to talk about Haslam’s “Prescription For Success,” a plan to fight prescription drug use in Tennessee. City and county officials, criminal justice personnel and community treatment providers will participate in a private roundtable discussion with Commissioner Doug Varney tomorrow. This event is not open to the public, but will give Varney an opportunity to describe Governor Bill Haslam’s plan, as well as have an honest discussion about prescription drug issues in this community.
Healthier Tennessee launches workplace recognition program (N. Biz Journal)
Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness,is launching a new workplace recognition program to distinguish organizations that encourage employees to live a healthy lifestyle, according to a news release. To qualify, businesses must have a wellness program that encourages and enables physical activity in the workplace, offers healthy eating options at work, provides a tobacco-free environment and help with tobacco cessation, encourages and enables employees to monitor their own health through regular health risk assessments, screenings or check-ups, and rewards and recognizes employees for participating in health and wellness activities and achieving health improvements.
State leaders launch recognition program (Nooga)
Through the Healthier Tennessee initiative, state leaders announced that they are going to start recognizing companies that encourage employees to engage in healthy lifestyles both at home and in the workplace. The new initiative is called Healthier Tennessee Workplace and is connected to the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness. “It is important that we recognize those workplaces that are making health and wellness a priority,” Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness CEO Rick Johnson said in a prepared statement. “We know our environment plays a huge part in our daily choices, so when workplaces provide a culture of wellness, they can have a tremendous positive impact on employee health and in turn the overall health of our state.”
Bell Buckle’s RC & Moon Pie Festival celebrates two favorite tastes (DNJ)
Two truly Southern tastes combine to create the popular RC & Moon Pie Festival, set for 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in historic downtown Bell Buckle. This year marks the 20th anniversary of this summer festival, and Gov. Bill Haslam and first lady Crissy Haslam will be on hand to celebrate, along with country music singer, Mark Collie. Festivities kick off at 7 a.m. with a 10-mile run that snakes through the hillsides around Bedford County. The day continues with games, contests, parade and coronation of the RC King and Queen and Moon Pie King and Queen.
More glitches, costs reported in DCS computer system (Tennessean/Wadhwani)
On the heels of a report noting Tennessee’s troubled Department of Children’s Services was getting “back on track” in caring for foster kids, a new report outlines costly delays and continued glitches in the multimillion-dollar computer system used to keep tabs on them. The Tennessee Family and Child Tracking System, also called TFACTS, cost taxpayers $27 million to get up and running in 2010 and has been plagued with problems. Since 2012, DCS officials have requested — and received — an additional $11.8 million to patch the system. The technology is supposed to hold the official case record of every child and family in the DCS system. But it has experienced hundreds of glitches — from failing to generate automatic payments to foster parents to an inability to accurately track child abuse, neglect and child deaths.
UT system to vote on 6 percent tuition hike (Tennessean/Garrison)
Six percent tuition hikes appear in store for many University of Tennessee students, while some other state universities and community colleges in Tennessee move toward increases that top that figure. UT’s Board of Trustees is set to vote Thursday on a budget proposal that would enact a 6 percent increase for students at its Knoxville campus enrolled before 2013 and a 3 percent increase for those who enrolled in 2013 and therefore qualify for a new tuition model. In-state students who enroll at UT-Knoxville this fall would pay $10,366 a year, nearly 3 percent more than those who entered the year before.
UTC students face 6% tuition bump, higher fees (Times Free-Press/Sher)
Students attending the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in August likely are looking at a 6 percent jump in tuition along with hefty fee increases under a budget expected to be approved today by the UT system’s board of trustees. The 6 percent tuition increase comes as Gov. Bill Haslam cut much of his original new state funding for higher education as revenues fell below projections. Under recommendations UT officials are recommending to trustees, the 6 percent tuition increase would bring annual tuition for undergraduates up from last year’s $6,065 to $6,430 — a $365 increase.
UT pharmacy school wants tuition discounts for out-of-state students (CA/Locker)
Faced with competition from five new pharmacy schools in Tennessee, the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy wants to give Arkansas and Mississippi students within 50 miles of Memphis a 75 percent discount on the out-of-state portion of their tuition to help recruit more students to the Memphis campus. The UT Health Science Center in Memphis took its proposal for a three-year trial run for the discount to the UT Board of Trustees Wednesday.
Records: Knox College’s problems started more than year ago (N-S/Boehnke)
A groundskeeper offered Daygo McBee and his buddies anything they wanted off a pile of rubbish outside a science building at Knoxville College last year. So they picked out a hefty, 1960s-era lab instrument. The outdated contraption might bring something at a North Knoxville scrap yard. The 35-year-old Mechanicsville man took a break from cleaning out the A.K. Stewart Science Building at the struggling school just west of downtown on May 2, 2013. He loaded a utility trailer with oscilloscopes and other lab equipment, hitched it behind a Jeep Cherokee and headed with a friend to PSC Metals on Central Street.
TWRA investigating deaths of ducks (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is investigating after more than 20 ducks died in a 24-hour period around Old Hickory Lake. Agency officials told WTVF-TV that they are sending the carcasses to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia where they will be tested. Michele Desirey, who has lived on the lake for more than 40 years, said she and her husband began finding dead ducks on their property on Sunday. She says they are anxious to know what’s causing the deaths. TWRA officials say lab results should be back by next month.
Tenn putting the people back in TennCare as some help is restored (TFP/Harrison)
Tennessee remains the only state that has handed its Medicaid application process over to the federal government, and for several months it has been the only state to shutter its in-person Medicaid application services. But state leaders say they are taking steps to restore some face-to-face help for people struggling with the new application process. This spring, members of the state’s Department of Human Services staff went through training to become certified counselors who can help people with the process, which primarily steers Tennesseans through HealthCare.gov to apply for TennCare.
Man Charged with TennCare Fraud for Sale of Medication (WZTV-TV Nashville)
A Davidson County man was charged with TennCare fraud for allegedly selling his prescription drugs, which were paid for by the state’s TennCare program. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with assistance from Metro Nashville Police, announced on Wednesday the arrest of Robert Carlton Patterson, 51, of Nashville. He was charged with TennCare fraud for the sale or delivery of the painkiller Oxycodone, obtained through the use of his TennCare benefits. “We are working with municipal and county police officers across the state, as they’re looking for prescription drug abusers of all stripes,” Acting Inspector General Robert White said.
Wine with those groceries? (Columbia Daily Herald)
The city of Spring Hill may become one of the first battlegrounds over a new state law allowing the sale of wine in grocery stores. Red, White and Food, a coalition launched by the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association to promote the sale of wine in grocery stores, has been gathering signatures on petitions in cities across the state to push the referendum on the November ballot, Red, White and Food board member Melissa Eads said. “Our customers have told us time and again that they want to purchase wine where they shop for food,” Eads said. “Local grocery stores are supporting the Red, White and Food campaign in making petitions available to our customers in eligible municipalities.”
Despite dramatic vote, Memphis financial troubles far from over (CA/Connelly)
The Memphis City Council made a dramatic move this week to shore up city finances, but the government’s money problems are far from over. The council voted 7-5 Tuesday to cut subsidies for retiree health care and use the savings to boost contributions to a troubled pension fund. “It appears to me that they’re making real progress toward addressing our concerns on the pension side,” said state Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville. He sponsored a recently approved law that requires governments to fully fund the annual contribution to their pensions by 2020. State comptroller Justin P. Wilson, who had written letters criticizing the city government’s financial woes, called the council’s action this week “a very positive step.”
Corker proposes gas tax hike to pay for roads fixes (Tennessean/Brown)
Sen. Bob Corker announced today a bipartisan plan to help pay for roads and highway programs by raising federal gasoline and diesel taxes for the first time in more than two decades. Corker, who joined in the proposal with Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, proposed raising the taxes by 12 cents over the next two years. After that, the tax would be tied to inflation to avoid future shortfalls. “If something’s worth having, it’s worth paying for,” Corker said in a conference call with reporters. Congress last raised federal gas taxes — currently 18.4 cents per gallon for regular gas and 24.4 cents for diesel — in 1993.
Bob Corker eyes 12 cent gas tax to help shore up federal road funds (TFP/Sher)
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on Thursday proposed a bipartisan plan to raise federal gas and diesel taxes for the first time in more than two decades as an answer to long-standing funding woes threatening to stall the nation’s highway, bridge and transit programs. With the federal Highway Trust Fund expected to run out of money in August, Corker said he is joining with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., on a proposal he hopes will provide a permanent, stable solution. It would raise the current 18.4 cent-per-gallon gas tax and 24.4 cent-per-gallon tax on diesel by 12 cents over the next two years. A 6-cent increase would come next year and a like boost the following year. The tax would then be pegged to inflation to avoid future shortfalls.
Corker Plays Dealmaker In Restoring Highway Trust Fund (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
Tennessee’s Bob Corker is once again casting himself as a Washington dealmaker. This time, the Republican Senator is touting a bipartisan plan to refill the federal highway trust fund, which is set to run out of money by the end of the year. The plan, put forward by Corker and Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, would replenish the fund by raising the federal gas tax six cents a year for the next two years, and then tie the tax to inflation. But Corker knows most of his fellow GOP lawmakers won’t vote for a tax increase. So, he wants to make his plan more palatable by making some existing tax deductions permanent, like teachers buying classroom supplies, which has to be renewed every year.
Soring bill advocates blame Blackburn, McConnell for lack of action (Tenn/Barton)
The man who led passage of the first law regulating horse soring 44 years ago blamed Kentucky and Tennessee lawmakers on Wednesday for blocking a new bill to shore up that act. Former Sen. Joseph Tydings, D-Md., the lead sponsor of the 1970 Horse Protection Act, said “one very powerful senator from Kentucky” was blocking the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act from coming to a vote in the Senate. Tydings made his remark, a clear reference to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., while addressing a rally of about 75 walking horse enthusiasts and animal rights activists in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool.
Will online sales taxes catch a ride on bill banning Internet access taxes? (NBJ)
Legislation to make the ban on taxing Internet access permanent was approved by the House Judiciary Committee by a 30-4 vote Wednesday. The lopsided vote is a clear signal that Congress will prevent the current ban on Internet access taxes from expiring Nov. 1. The question going forward is whether this bill also becomes the vehicle for addressing sales taxes on Internet purchases. The technology industry strongly supported the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, which prohibits federal, state or local governments from taxing Internet access or imposing multiple or discriminatory taxes on e-commerce.
The cost of Obamacare in Tennesse (Nashville Business Journal)
What does health insurance cost through Obamacare in Tennessee? For those who qualified for premium tax credits, the answer is $86. That’s according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which found that 78 percent of Tennesseans who enrolled for Obamacare via the federally facilitated online insurance marketplace selected a plan with tax credits. Those enrollees paid an average of $195 less than the pre-tax credit average premium of $281, according to the report. In order to qualify for tax credits, which vary based upon income level, individuals must fall between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line.
Premiums Rise at Big Insurers, Fall at Small Rivals Under Health Law (WSJ)
Hundreds of thousands of consumers nationwide who bought insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act will face a choice this fall: swallow higher premiums to stay in their plan, or save money by switching. That is the picture emerging from proposed 2015 insurance rates in the 10 states that have completed their filings, which stretch from Rhode Island to Washington state. In all but one of them, the largest health insurer in the state is proposing to increase premiums between 8.5% and 22.8% for next year, according to a Wall Street Journal review of the filings. That percentage represents the average rate increases for all individual health plans offered by that carrier.
One New Commander At Fort Campbell Will Be Addressed As ‘Yes Ma’am’ (WPLN)
The guard is changing at Fort Campbell, with a ceremony Friday to install Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky as commander of the 101st Airborne Division. Throughout the division, officers are being promoted to new roles, including the first woman to ever serve as a brigade commander at Fort Campbell. Last week, Kimberly J. Daub was given authority over the 101st Sustainment Brigade, known as the “Lifeliners.” Most recently, she acted as division chief in charge of getting equipment out of Afghanistan as the U.S. draws down troop levels in that country. “She is one of the top logistician leaders,” said Maj. Gen. James McConville, who is leaving Fort Campbell for a new job with the Secretary of the Army.
Lawyers seek dismissal of Tennessee meningitis cases (Tennessean/Roche)
Lawyers for the Saint Thomas health companies urged a federal judge in Boston Wednesday to throw out nearly all the claims filed on behalf of dozens of Tennessee victims of a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak, charging that the claims failed to meet the requirements of Tennessee laws. Chris Tardio, one of the Saint Thomas lawyers, told U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel that some 43 cases should be dismissed because the complaints did not meet notice and other requirements of the state health care liability law. Though the suits were filed under the state product liability statute, Tardio argued that lawyers for the victims were trying to make the cases seem like something that they weren’t.
Five new charter schools recommended for approval (Tennessean/Garrison)
Five out of eight applications for new charter schools in Nashville earned a recommendation for approval by Metro Nashville Public Schools — including a proposal from the nation’s largest charter network to take over a struggling elementary school. KIPP Nashville, the local affiliate of the national KIPP Public Schools, would convert a still-to-be-determined low-performing district elementary school into a charter by the fall of 2015, under a plan Metro Director of Schools Jesse Register’s administration has advised for Metro school board approval in a report released Wednesday.
Editorial: Road projects need dedicated funding (Tennessean)
Tennesseans are accustomed to having a superior system of roads and are even more used to paying the bill for the roadwork as we go. But that could change very soon. The Tennessee Department of Transportation, along with counterparts across the country, stands to lose billions of dollars later this summer when the federal Highway Trust Fund runs dry. Nationally as much as $160 billion in transportation projects could be lost, as well as 660,000 jobs. That’s not to mention the potholes and vehicle damage that will proliferate as road maintenance comes to a halt. The trust fund is running out because the federal excise tax on gasoline remains at 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel — rates that have not increased since 1993.
Free-Press Editorial: Corker’s gas tax proposal OK if tax breaks nailed (TFP)
As a businessman, as a former Tennessee commissioner of finance, as a mayor and as a United States senator, Bob Corker always has been considered a practical man. So, on Wednesday, he and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., proposed a new funding mechanism for the federal Highway Trust Fund that’s practical but controversial. The proposal would fund transportation projects at current spending levels for the next 10 years and add buying power as well. The controversial part is that it would raise federal gasoline and diesel taxes by six cents per gallon in each of the next two years and then index the gas taxes to inflation, using the Consumer Price Index, to ensure the fund remains viable into the future.
Editorial: A courageous vote for Memphis’ financial future (Commercial Appeal)
If you logged on to the Memphis City Council’s website Tuesday evening to watch the council’s regular meeting, it was difficult not to sympathize with the city government retirees and employees who implored the council to reject Mayor A C Wharton’s proposal to cut retirees’ health insurance subsidies and use the money to shore up the city’s pension fund. The council, despite weeks of pressure from retirees and employee representatives, showed some backbone and approved a city budget that included the change. Given the city’s debt issue, exacerbated by a $551 million pension fund shortfall and $1.3 billion indebtedness in the city health insurance program, the administration and council really had no other good options beyond drastic service cuts or a significant tax increase.