This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Job creation by foreign-owned companies in Knoxville increases (N-S/Harris)
Foreign investment has been a significant job creator in the Knoxville region, making the area a leading metro market for foreign-backed jobs, according to a new report by the Brookings Institution. With 6.1 percent of private employment in the metro region created by foreign businesses, Knoxville ranks 24th among metropolitan markets, according to 2011 figures. That’s up from 4.7 percent and 30th in 1991, the report released Friday says. In Tennessee, only Chattanooga has a higher percentage of foreign backed jobs at 6.4 percent in 2011. Foreign investment accounts for 4.9 percent of jobs in Memphis and 4.8 percent in Nashville.
Is Nashville the nation’s next $100 billion city? (Tennessean/DuBois)
Nashville’s economy ranks as one of the fastest-growing in the country, joining other booming cities like Austin and San Jose, according to a new report on metro economies released Friday at the United States Conference of Mayors. The city ranks third in the country based on the rate of growth of the gross metropolitan product, or GMP, which measures the value of all goods and services produced within a metropolitan area. During 2013, Nashville grew its GMP by 4.2 percent, double the national average of 2.1 percent growth. In terms of GMP growth, only Austin, Texas, and San Jose, Calif., beat out Nashville.
Ducktown, Etowah am named to Tennessee Downtowns program (TFP/Benton)
Etowah and Ducktown in Southeast Tennessee were among the six Volunteer State towns named Thursday to the most recent listing of communities named to the Tennessee Downtowns revitalization program. In McMinn County’s Etowah, a stretch of the main drag in front of the historic Etowah Depot on Tennessee Avenue is targeted for improvements, according to city manager Matthew Gravley. Being among the six cities “was a real boost for our team. We’ve had the same team together for the past two years,” Gravley said. “We’ve been doing projects that entire time.”
Tennessee rolls out recognition for healthy employer programs (TFP/Bradbury)
Every CEO wants to have the latest-and-greatest certification on the wall, to sit a trophy on the shelf and show the world just how great a place their company is. At least that’s what Rick Johnson is betting. He’s the president and CEO of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Foundation for Health and Wellness, and this week he rolled out a new workplace recognition program to highlight organizations that promote healthy lifestyles among employees. The Healthier Tennessee Workplace program will give employers a certificate of recognition, award seal and digital branding if the company meets five healthy criteria, including encouraging physical activity in the workplace, offering healthy eating options, maintaining a tobacco-free environment, enabling employees to track their own health and rewarding employees for participating in healthy activities.
Regents approve fee increase, cut out-of-state tuition at U. of Memphis (CA/Locker)
The Tennessee Board of Regents on Friday approved the tuition and fee hikes recommended by its finance committee, including a plan by the University of Memphis to freeze tuition for in-state residents this fall and cut tuition for out-of-state students. The bills students pay are a combination of tuition, fees that all full-time students pay and various course- and service-specific fees. U of M students from Tennessee taking 15 hours per semester will pay the same tuition for the upcoming academic year they paid last year, $7,410, plus mandatory fees of $1,563. The fees are increasing by $307 with most of the proceeds funding a new student recreation center approved by the student government.
Board of Regents rules on University of Memphis tuition (Memphis Biz Journal)
The Tennessee Board of Regents has approved two proposals from the University of Memphis that will keep tuition flat for the upcoming academic year and reduce tuition out-of-state students pay to attend the U of M. After an average increase of 7.3 percent over the last 10 years, university officials proposed that maintenance fees, commonly referred to as tuition, remain flat for 2014-15. It is the first time in 22 years that all U of M students will not see a tuition increase. “Affordability is a key component of our strategy to encourage more students to attend the University of Memphis and complete college on time,” said president M. David Rudd. “The university has always been a great educational value, but it is an even better value now.”
Regents approve tuition, fee hikes: Expense to attend MTSU to rise (DNJ)
The Tennessee Board of Regents approved tuition and feeincreases ranging from 3.5 to 8.6 percent for all of its schools Friday afternoon, a day after the University of Tennessee approved its own hikes. Middle Tennessee State University, the largest school the board oversees, will raise tuition $330 and mandatory fees $18, increasing total costs 4.4 percent. It will now cost $8,188 to attend MTSU in the 2014-2015 school year. Students at Tennessee Tech University will pay $836 more in tuition and mandatory fees for the coming academic year, the largest of the increases the board approved. The University of Memphis will not raise tuition, but fees will go up $307, the smallest overall increase.
Judge blasts DCS computer delays, but some goals met (Tennessean/Gonzalez)
A federal judge on Friday praised some improvements in Tennessee’s child protection system but rebuked officials for a lack of urgency in fixing the state computer system that keeps track of child safety cases. “This ought to be somebody’s job, when they get up in the morning, to make it their reason for living to get this fixed,” said U.S. District Court Judge Todd J. Campbell. The judge listened to attorneys spell out the highs and lows from hundreds of pages recently filed in court about the Department of Children’s Services. That agency, which investigates child abuse and oversees foster care and juvenile justice, has been under a federal court order to improve its care of children since a lawsuit in 2000 by New York-based watchdog group Children’s Rights.
GOP tea party legislators’ letter seeks Kevin Huffman’s resignation (TFP/Sher)
A spokesman for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam says a group of GOP tea party lawmakers who want Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman to be fired or to resign “chose a political stunt instead of constructive dialogue.” “Education is one of the most serious issues for the future of our state, and the governor believes there is a more productive way to discuss something so significant than through a letter by a small group of legislators more interested in trying to get headlines than substance,” said Haslam spokesman David Smith in an email. Fourteen Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Joe Carr who is running for U.S. Senate, signed the letter to Haslam, released Thursday calling on Huffman to resign or Haslam fire him.
Dept. of Health disciplines 9 local doctors, nurses (Johnson City Press)
Three area pharmacists and six nurses were among dozens of licensed medical professionals disciplined in May by the Tennessee Department of Health. The department releases its listing of disciplined medical and health-related professionals each month. For May, three pharmacists were disciplined for allowing unregistered pharmacy technicians to work under their supervision.
Chief justice spreading message about fair courts (Times Free-Press/South)
Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade had a busy Friday in Chattanooga. The state’s top judge was here talking with mayors, judges, a police union representative and lawyers to broaden support for his and his fellow justices’ retention in the Aug. 7 election. What’s been a fairly standard, low-key affair every eight years for the past quarter century is in danger of becoming a politicized campaign unlike what is intended in Tennessee, Wade said. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a Republican, has pushed to oust Wade and fellow justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee, all appointed by Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Opponent Knocks Harper As Out Of Touch, But She’s Still Got Dem Clout (WPLN)
One of Nashville’s long-serving lawmakers is having to work harder than usual to get reelected. Sen. Thelma Harper has had only one other opponent in the Democratic primary since 1998, but this year she has drawn a competitive challenger. Asked what she’s accomplished over the last four years in office, the 73-year-old Harper – known for never appearing in public without a hat – takes some credit for the new convention center in Nashville and a new minor league baseball stadium under construction. But she says she tries not to toot her own horn. “I don’t go around telling people ‘I’ve done this, I’ve done this, I’ve done that,” the six-term legislator says. “When you go to public office, you should go to take care of people, and that’s what I do.”
Labor unions question lobbying of Tennessee Charter School Center (TN/Garrison)
Nashville-area labor unions are taking aim at the state’s leading advocacy group for charter schools, arguing that as a nonprofit, the Tennessee Charter School Center may be engaged in lobbying at the Tennessee General Assembly above the level allowed. In a letter sent to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen this week, four labor unions requested the IRS “examine the lobbying activities of the Tennessee Charter School Center” to determine whether the organization’s tax status should be placed under review.
Alexander non-committal on fuel tax hike (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Winston)
Bob Corker wants to raise the federal gas tax, but his Tennessee counterpart in the U.S. Senate was noncommittal on Friday. During a campaign stop at Stowers Machinery Corp. in Knoxville — where he was endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said he won’t support a fuel tax hike “until I see the road proposal.” Alexander said he believes there should be a long-term plan for highways, and that the government should pay for it instead of borrowing money. He cited road programs that were implemented when he was governor of Tennessee, adding that “we raised the gas tax, as a result we have the best roads in the country and we have zero road debt.
President Obama Makes Nashville’s Acting U.S. Attorney Permanent (WPLN)
President Obama has nominated a new US Attorney for Middle Tennessee. David Rivera has already served in that role for more than a year. Obama announced his nomination, along with a new US Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. “These two men have proven themselves to be not only top-flight attorneys but dedicated public servants,” President Obama said in a statement. “I am grateful for the work they have already done on behalf of the American people and confident that they will ensure justice is served as United States Attorneys.” Rivera was named acting US Attorney, after Jerry Martin stepped down to enter private practice.
Editorial: Broken promises lead to tuition hikes (Tennessean)
With tuition increases ranging as high at 8.5 percent for post-secondary public education this fall, the question must be raised: Are Tennessee’s political leaders really as committed to improving educational attainment as they say they are? Last fall, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission recommended the state allocate an additional $29.6 million for 2014-15, based on the funding formula the state itself set under the 2010 Complete College Tennessee Act. That would have left students enrolling in colleges, universities and technology centers facing only 2 to 4 percent increases in tuition — a level of increase that more families could reasonably manage.