This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
101 new jobs coming to Portland (Tennessean/Yankova)
An automotive parts maker announced Thursday an expansion with plans to invest $17 million in Portland and create 101 new jobs. Michigan-based Hatch Stamping Co. plans to open its new manufacturing facility by January 2015 inside an existing 106,000-square-foot building in the Robertson County Industrial Park, which is within the city limits of Portland. The expansion reinforces Portland’s recognized reputation as “a very good location for industries,” Portland Mayor Ken Wilber said. “We’re excited to have a top quality automotive parts manufacturer in Portland,” Wilber said.
Hickman Tavern gets state historic grant (Standard Banner)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee Historical Commission have awarded a $9000 grant to fund the restoration of the exterior of the Hickman Tavern – now used as the Dandridge Town Hall. The grants are competitive and Hickman Tavern was the only site in Jefferson County to be awarded one of the final 37 grants. “Today’s announcement of more than $600,000 in assistance to communities across the state helps ensure that Tennessee’s rich history will continue to be shared with future generations,” Governor Haslam said. Some of the grant money was awarded for everything from archaeological surveys to posters and brochures related to historic tourism.
Ola, guten tag and bonjour: Chattanooga tops in foreign jobs in TN (TFP/Pare)
The Chattanooga region is among the top 20 metro areas nationwide — and the highest ranked in Tennessee — when it comes to the share of jobs created by foreign companies. The six-county region is 19th nationally in the foreign employment category, with jobs in motor vehicles and meat and poultry leading the way, a new study by the Brookings Institution shows. The study reports that 12,670 jobs in metro Chattanooga — or one of every 16 employees — are at foreign-owned businesses, according to 2011 figures of the top 100 metro areas in the U.S. That’s up from only one of every 22 employees in 1991, when the region ranked 35th.
Nashville foreign investment employment down, Tennessee up (Tenn/Coker)
Nashville ranks among the top 50 metro areas in the nation for the number of jobs created or sustained by foreign investment, a new report concludes. But the share of private employment backed by foreign money has declined from 6 percent to 4.8 percent over the last decade, according to the Brookings Institution report. That has meant Nashville has dropped from No. 10 in the nation to 47. An estimated 83,000 Nashville jobs are supported by foreign direct investment, according to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.
6 cities added to Tennessee Downtowns program (Associated Press)
State officials say six cities have been chosen to participate in the Tennessee Downtowns program. Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty says the communities of Arlington, Carthage, Ducktown, Etowah, Jamestown and Shelbyville have been selected for the program. Tennessee Downtowns is a community improvement program for cities and counties seeking to turn traditional commercial districts into places where people want to shop, live and have fun. The six selected communities are home to downtown commercial districts established at least 50 years ago.
Treasury Dept. to host college savings workshops (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Treasury Department is hosting workshops to help parents save money for their children’s college tuition. Starting Saturday, the department will host a series of workshops at different locations around the state to help educate people about the TNStars 529 College Savings Plan. Attendees will learn about the benefits of the plan, which offers them a way to save money for college while enjoying certain tax advantages. All the workshops are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. The one this Saturday will be held at Jackson State Community College.
Tennessee unemployment rate moves in the wrong direction (Nashville Biz Journal)
The unemployment rate in Tennessee took a step back in May, increasing to 6.4 percent, up from April’s revised rate of 6.3 percent. The national unemployment rate, meanwhile, stood pat at 6.3 percent. The state’s unemployment rate is down from 8.4 percent a year ago. The national rate is down from 7.4 percent. Total non farm employment increased by 6,700 jobs in Nashville from April to May, with the largest increases coming in the leisure/hospitality, retail and government sectors.
Jobs in Tennessee and Georgia rise but not as fast as labor force (TFP/Flessner)
Unemployment in Tennessee and Georgia rose last month despite job gains in both states. The jobless rate in Tennessee edged up by a tenth of a percentage point during May to 6.4 percent, rising above the nationwide average unemployment rate of 6.3 percent last month. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday that the Volunteer State added 6,700 jobs during May. But the labor force grew far faster with the addition of 39,000 people on the job or looking for work. Similarly in Georgia, the jobless rate in May edged up three-tenths of a percentage point to 7.2 percent even though the state added 21,400 jobs last month.
Tennessee unemployment rate slips in May (Daily News Journal)
Tennessee’s preliminary unemployment rate for May is 6.4 percent, a 10th of a percent higher than the April revised rate, Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced Thursday. The U.S. preliminary rate for May is 6.3 percent, same as the Tennessee and U.S. April revised rates. Over the past year, the state’s unemployment rate decreased 2 percent from 8.4 percent to 6.4 percent while the national rate decreased from 7.5 percent to 6.3 percent. According to the Labor Department, total nonfarm employment increased 6,700 jobs from April to May.
GOP lawmakers demand Tenn. education chief’s resignation (AP/Schelzig)
Gov. Bill Haslam’s office is dismissing as a “political stunt” a letter signed by 15 Republican lawmakers demanding the resignation of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. The letter dated Thursday cites complaints from school administrators, teachers and students about Huffman’s leadership style as his department implements a series of changes in K-12 education. “Commissioner Huffman has overstepped his authority and failed to serve in the best interest of the citizens of this state,” the letter said. “Anything short of his immediate removal will be unacceptable.”
15 Tennessee Republicans call for Kevin Huffman’s resignation (Tenn/Garrison)
Citing a “complete lack of trust” and alleging manipulation of test results, a group of 15 Tennessee Republicans has asked for the immediate resignation of state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman in a letter sent to his boss, Gov. Bill Haslam, on Thursday. “Our trustworthiness has continued to be jeopardized on education reform,” reads the letter, signed by several tea party-affiliated House members and senators, including state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, a U.S. Senate candidate, and Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, who has called for Huffman’s resignation before.
Legislators send letter to Haslam asking for Kevin Huffman’s resignation (WKRN)
More than a dozen legislators sent a letter to Governor Bill Haslam Thursday demanding the resignation of Department of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. In the four-page letter, the bi-partisan group outlines why they want Huffman to step down from his position, which includes accusations of misguided judgment, dereliction of duty and failing to uphold state law following problems with the release of TCAP scores. “We cannot begin to craft an honest solution to our education problems without first recognizing an even bigger problem, a complete lack of trust in the Tennessee Department of Education,” the letter states in part.
TN GOP lawmakers want education commissioner to resign (WSMV-TV Nashville)
More than a dozen Republican state lawmakers want the state education commissioner to resign following the delay of TCAP test results. In a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam, they say they have a “complete lack of trust” in the Tennessee Department of Education. They’re asking for Commissioner Kevin Huffman to resign immediately. Last month, the education department delayed the release of those statewide TCAP results, and it left many districts in a bind. Several districts, including Metro Nashville Public Schools, got a waiver from the state to exclude the test results in students’ final grades.
Some Lawmakers Calling For Education Commissioner To Resign (WTVF-TV)
More than a dozen lawmakers have called on the man charged with improving Tennessee’s schools to step down. In a letter to Governor Bill Haslam Thursday, the group of 14 Republicans said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman broke the law by delaying the release of TCAP scores. Those lawmakers said Huffman should be held accountable. In the letter, the group said Huffman has constantly received complaints about his decisions, but his handling of the TCAP score delay was inexcusable. The governor said there were more productive ways to have the conversation, and called the letter a headline grabbing “stunt.”
Lawmakers Demand Education Commissioner Huffman Resign (WZTV-TV Nash)
More than a dozen Tennessee lawmakers are pushing for the state education commissioner Kevin Huffman to be pushed out office. In a four page letter sent to Governor Bill Haslam, the group demands Huffman resign. They are also accusing him of poor judgment like on standardized test results. The letter signed by Representative Rick Womick and 15 others states in part: there’s “a complete lack of trust ” in Huffman and the department. Rep. Rick Womick says, “He’s in direct violation of the law. He’s not fulfilling obligation, his oath to the office.” According to Womick, the final straw came with the recent delay in releasing TCAP scores.
Tennessee Republicans call for Kevin Huffman’s resignation (WATE-TV Knoxville)
In a letter to Governor Bill Haslam, a group of Tennessee Republicans has demanded the immediate resignation of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “Our trustworthiness has continued to be jeopardized on education reform. We feel that a great source of that mistrust comes from the actions, and general attitude of Commissioner Kevin Huffman,” reads the letter signed by 15 Republican representatives including Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains; Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown; U.S Senate candidate and state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas; and Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, who has called for Huffman’s resignation before.
Carr joins in letter demanding Haslam get rid of education commissioner (TFP/Sher)
State Rep. Joe Carr, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate, has joined with 13 other Republican colleagues in the Legislature in a letter demanding Republican Gov. Bill Haslam force Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman to resign. The issue is the state’s Common Core curriculum standards as well as related testing for K-12 students. “It is the general consensus of the undersigned that Commissioner Huffman has overstepped his authority and has failed to serve in the best interest of the citizens of this state,” the letter says. “Anything short of his immediate removal from office will be unacceptable.”
Tennessee representatives call for education commissioner to resign (WCYB-TV)
Tennessee State Representative Joe Carr and 13 other representatives from the Tennessee General Assembly have called for the resignation of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. They called for the resignation in an open letter to Governor Bill Haslam. Huffman has been under fire for his implementation of Common Core standards and testing in Tennessee. The lawmakers who signed the letter also claim that Huffman “has apparently violated Tennessee state law in delaying the reporting of student test scores.” The test scores are the annual statewide TCAP scores.
APSU faces 5.6% tuition hike (Associated Press/Johnson)
Tennessee higher education officials gave preliminary approval Thursday to tuition hikes – including 5.6 percent for Austin Peay State University – and lamented that the increase probably could have been avoided if state leaders had made funding a priority. The finance committee of the Tennessee Board of Regents — one of the state’s two higher education governing boards — voted for an increase of up to 6.9 percent for its six state universities. East Tennessee State University could see the biggest jump, with an increase of $442 per year for 15 credit hours. APSU’s cost for tuition would rise $304.
College tuition costs again rising in Tennessee (Times Free-Press/Sher)
Another year, another round of tuition and fee hikes left leaders of Tennessee’s two higher education systems wringing their hands Thursday over flat funding from the state and how to deal with a future where that may not change. “We’ve shifted the cost from a public education to more of a private-driven enterprise” where funding increasingly falls on students and their families, University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro told UT system board trustees. “I’m committed to reversing this trend, but I think we need to go forward and take a hard look at ourselves. “Frankly,” DiPietro said, “we have to look at our whole business model and decide if it’s broken or not.”
Boards approve student tuition and fee hikes at Tennessee universities (CA/Locker)
The state’s two higher education governing boards moved Thursday to raise student tuition and fees at Tennessee’s public colleges and universities when students return in August. The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees approved increases for in-state undergraduates by 7.7 percent at UT Chattanooga, 6.8 percent at UT Martin and between 3.5 and 6.1 percent at UT Knoxville depending on when students entered the university. The board, which met in Knoxville, also froze tuition and most fees at UT Health Science Center in Memphis at last year’s rates, and approved a tuition discount at its pharmacy school for students who live within 50 miles of Memphis in Arkansas and Mississippi.
UT system president: Don’t make students fund higher ed (Tennessean/Garrison)
The University of Tennessee system president is calling for a statewide coalition to take a stand on education funding after his board of trustees approved a 6 percent tuition increase on Thursday. The state’s other higher education system, the Tennessee Board of Regents, is expected to follow suit Friday with increases in the same range. Such annual increases fly in the face of Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative to increase the number of college graduates in Tennessee to 55 percent of the population by 2025, UT system President Joe DiPietro contends.
MTSU’s expense may rise this fall (Daily News Journal)
Tuition and mandatory fees at Middle Tennessee State University will be $348 more than last year’s for a full-time student if the Tennessee Board of Regents approves a recommendation Friday from its Committee on Finance and Business Operations. That amount equals a 5.3 percent maintenance fee/tuition increase, according to a news release from TBR. Thirteen community colleges throughout the state, including Motlow that has a campus in Smyrna, will increase tuition by 5.8 percent. The committee met Thursday afternoon and recommended an increase in tuition and fees at all but one of its institutions this year, according to the release.
Madison County jails fail state inspection (Jackson Sun)
The Madison County Criminal Justice Complex and Jail Annex failed an inspection of the jail facilities last month by the Tennessee Corrections Institute. The annual surprise inspection took place on May 8, and the county has until July 7 to fix the problems found in the inspection, which included overcrowding that led to some inmates sleeping on the floor at the justice complex. The Tennessee Corrections Institute is under the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. Katelyn Abernathy, the director of communications for TDCI, said the institute does not have authority to penalize jails when they fail to meet minimum state standards in inspections.
Want To Grow Hemp In Tenn? There Are Some Hoops To Jump Through (WPLN)
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has just proposed rules for farmers wanting to grow hemp, and they’re pretty strict. Some of the potential rules include requiring a $500 license, providing GPS coordinates of hemp fields, and being subject to random testing of THC levels, which should be at trace amounts compared to marijuana. Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), who championed the bill at the Tennessee legislature, hopes the rules eventually lighten up. “We had to make ‘em strict in order to get our foot in the door, to get started,” he says. “But as time goes on we can loosen those up. You know, in politics you gotta do what’s possible, and we did good to get what we got.”
Tennessee Comptroller: $775,000 unrecovered (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)
While Tennessee’s counties were able to recover nearly $238,000 of more than $563,000 in public cash shortages over the past year, almost $450,000 in new shortages were detected by the state Comptroller’s Office. According to a new report released by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Justin Wilson, the total amount of missing public funds from Tennessee’s 95 counties as of June 30, 2013, was $775,221.12. The Report of Cash Shortages is an annual report that details the status of public funds missing from the state’s county governments. The report is compiled using information from the financial reports of Tennessee’s counties, as well as from comptroller investigations.
Corker sponsors bill to help children abducted overseas (Tennessean/Barton)
Sen. Bob Corker introduced legislation Thursday to bolster the government’s ability to help parents rescue children abducted overseas. “Nothing could be more traumatic for a parent than having a child taken from them to another country never to return,” said the Tennessee Republican. The bill, introduced by the Tennessee Republican along with Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, would: • Require annual State Department reports on international child abductions that are easily understood and detailed. • Require U.S. diplomatic and consular missions to monitor abduction and access cases and offer assistance to parents left behind.
Guest columnist: U of M committed to keeping tuition affordable (C. Appeal)
For the first time in 22 years, the University of Memphis is on the verge of not raising tuition, a decision consistent with our firm commitment to improving access and affordability, along with recognition that student debt is a problem that needs quick attention and definitive action. At the heart of our mission as an urban-serving public research university is playing a role in improving the lives of Memphians. Careful study and review over the past year revealed that the single greatest challenge faced by our students is financial, with declining enrollment driven by escalating student debt, annual tuition costs and the challenge of juggling a multitude of competing life stressors.
Editorial: After 20 years, a hike in the federal gasoline tax is justified (C. Appeal)
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker is a conservative Tennessee Republican who normally would not be expected to support a tax increase, let alone propose one. But that is what he and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., are doing in calling for a 12-cent hike in the federal gasoline and diesel fuel taxes over two years. Corker said the money is needed to permanently shore up the federal Highway Trust Fund, which helps pay for highway and transit projects. The fund will go broke this summer, potentially jeopardizing new and ongoing road projects, and putting some 600,000 jobs at risk.