This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Haslam announces Dickson housing, water authority grant (Dickson Herald)
Gov. Bill Haslam was in Dickson on Tuesday to announce two Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation grants that will go toward energy conservation improvements at the Dickson Housing Authority and Water Authority of Dickson County. The housing authority is receiving a $250,000 Clean Tennessee Energy Grant from TDEC, which will be used to help complete energy conservation improvements in managed units, including the replacement of heating and air conditioning systems with new Energy Star-rated heating and air-conditioning, replacement of compact fluorescent light bulbs with Energy Star-rated LED bulbs and replacement of existing single pane windows with Energy Star-rated insulated windows.
Springfield receives grant to expand greenway system (Tennessean)
The City of Springfield will receive a grant for more than $882,000 to fund the expansion of the city’s greenway, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday. The funds will be used for phase III of the city’s greenway, which will include pedestrian and bicycle facilities along parts of South Main Street, Central Avenue, John L. Patterson Street and Bransford Drive. The project will add 4,000 feet of concrete path and will include new landscaping, bike racks and decorative lighting, according to a released issued by the state. “This project will complete a major component of Springfield’s Greenway Master Plan and will provide critical links to neighborhoods, schools and parks,” Haslam said.
Springfield To Get Nearly $900K Transportation Grant (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Governor Bill Haslam announced a nearly $900,000 transportation grant for the City of Springfield. Governor Haslam, along with Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer, announced the $882,943 transportation alternative grant on Tuesday. It would build a major component of the city’s Greenway Master Plan. “This project will complete a major component of Springfield’s Greenway Master Plan and will provide critical links to neighborhoods, schools and parks,” Haslam said. “Tennessee’s downtowns are the heart of our communities, and this grant helps improve the quality of life for residents and visitors to Springfield.”
State grant will connect three Ashland City parks (Ashland City Times)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced today the award of a $398,447 transportation alternative grant that will connect three parks in Ashland City. Haslam made the announcement at the Cheatham County Courthouse. The town of Ashland City applied for the Tennessee Department of Transportation grant late last year. The grant will connect Riverbluff Park, the John C. “Preacher” Poole Recreation Area and City Park (tennis courts). The project will provide trail connections to all three parks, which are currently only accessible by automobile. It includes more than 2,000 linear feet of 10-foot wide asphalt trail, a bridge, boardwalk, retaining walls, fencing, and a trailhead with amenities.
Tennessee among the friendliest states for small business (Memphis Biz Journal)
Tennessee is the sixth friendliest state in the U.S. for small businesses. The ranking is part of a survey by San Francisco-based Thumbtack.com and theEwing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Thumbtack.com tracked more than 12,000 entrepreneurs nationwide and asked questions ranging from their ranking of their state’s support for small businesses to questions about taxes. A total of 82 cities participated in the study. Tennessee moved up 10 spots this year, and finished in the top five out of 11 categories.
Tennessee ranks as small business-friendly (Nooga)
Consumer service company Thumbtack released an annual survey that lists Tennessee as one of the 10 most small business-friendly states in the country. “After a two-month survey of thousands of small business owners nationwide, small businesses have rewarded Tennessee with one of the highest grades in the country,” Jon Lieber, chief economist of Thumbtack.com, said in a prepared statement. “Creating a business climate that is welcoming to small, dynamic businesses is more important than ever, and Tennessee has worked hard to make this happen.”
10 startups compete for $100k from AOL co-founder (Tennessean/Williams)
Nine Nashville companies will be competing for a $100,000 investment from AOL co-founder Steve Case during a event this week in Nashville. Case’s visit is part of a four-day “Rise of the Rest” Road Trip that will stop in four cities to highlight thriving startup communities. The four stops are Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Nashville. As chairman and CEO of Revolution, a Washington, D.C.-based investment firm he co-founded in 2005, Case has invested in a number of companies, including Zipcar, LivingSocial, AddThis, Lolly Wolly Doodle, Bigcommerce and Echo360. Gov. Bill Haslam and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will take part in Friday’s activities as well, officials said.
Report finds it tougher to be unemployed in Tennessee (Memphis Biz Journal)
It’s never easy to be unemployed, as many found out during the recession, but a new ranking says that it’s tougher in Tennessee to be jobless. According to a ranking by the website 24/7 Wall St., Tennessee is the No. 10 most difficult state to be unemployed. The number of jobs in Tennessee grew at a higher pace than the national average over the last 12 months, but for the remaining 6.3 percent without jobs, the Volunteer state can be harsh. The average unemployment insurance payment in Tennessee was $232 per week, which is only 27.6 percent of the average weekly wage in the state.
Apison Pike widening gets go-ahead despite federal funding worries (TFP/Pare)
Tennessee’s transportation chief pledged Tuesday that the $22.5 million widening of Apison Pike — seen as key for McKee Foods and easing Collegedale area traffic tie-ups — will go forward despite federal funding worries. But, plans to extend the highway to East Brainerd Road could run into problems unless the shortfall in the federal Highway Trust Fund is cleared up, said state Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer. That’s not the only huge Hamilton County project that could be affected. The planned improvements to U.S. 27 in downtown Chattanooga from Olgiati Bridge to Interstate 24 could fall victim to that same shortfall, officials said.
University of Memphis announces $104 million in capital improvements (CA/Backer)
The University of Memphis on Monday announced plans for $104 million in capital improvements, including a new student recreation and fitness center, parking garage and land bridge. The U of M Student Government Association in February approved a $307 annual fee increase to fund the recreation center beginning in August, raising the combined tuition and mandatory fee bill by 3.5 percent to $8,973. The 192,500-square-foot center will be located along Southern Avenue north of the existing U of M Student Recreation Center, and is expected to open in 2018. The $62 million recreation facility will house a four-court divisible gym, six racquetball courts, a multipurpose fitness center with a climbing wall, a natatorium with a recreational pool and lane pool.
Cleveland State Community College hit with accreditation warning (TFP/Benton)
Cleveland State Community College’s accrediting organization has warned the school in a yearlong sanction for failure to comply with requirements. The college’s accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges remains intact and the warning did not trigger a visit from a special committee, but Cleveland State President Bill Seymour says fixes are already in the works. Seymour, who assumed his post in January after the school’s 10-year report was submitted to the commission in 2013, said the warning related to failure to meet one core requirement indicates “we haven’t instituted a system and culture of continuous planning and assessment that ensures comprehensive effectiveness over time.”
Bell Helicopter, Northeast State team up for aviation tech course (Herald-Courier)
Bell Helicopter and Northeast State Community College announced Tuesday the launch of a new aviation-based curriculum this fall that aims to place new mechanics into the work force. The Piney Flats-based aeronautics company and the school will partner for a program concentration in aviation maintenance that will include training instructors from Bell teaming with classroom personnel to guide students in a one-year intensive program, College President Dr. Janice Gilliam said. Tennessee Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, helped by bringing together state officials and Bell company officials to help plan and develop core guidelines for the courses, she said.
THP and WBIR test of ‘Move Over Law’ demonstrates danger (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
The Tennessee Highway Patrol’s social media push for drivers to move over for stopped vehicles is now going national. This weekend, state troopers from Michigan to Florida will be out in full force on I-75 to ensure safety. That includes the need for drivers to move over for stopped emergency vehicles. In May, photos of THP troopers holding signs with the #MoveOver hashtag went viral. The social media campaign was in response to a Nashville police officer who was hit and killed while working an accident on I-65 in Brentwood. Tuesday morning, WBIR teamed up with the Tennessee Highway Patrol to conduct a short test that demonstrated the dangers facing workers in stopped vehicles on a daily basis.
Republican probe of Tennessee Supreme Court’s chief justice stalls (TFP/Sher)
A Republican-led Senate investigation stalled Tuesday on whether Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade improperly interfered with an independent panel’s evaluations of other judges. That came after an ad hoc panel headed by Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, spent four hours peppering top officials with the state Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission and the state Board of Judicial Conduct about the actions of Wade, a Democrat, and the panels’ own responses to them. The officials’ take? No laws were broken, no judicial rules violated when Wade found out, from a leak, about Performance Evaluation Commission members’ initial negative evaluations of three Court of Appeals judges up for reelection in August.
Did Chief Justice Break Ethics Code? Conservatives Keep Pressing (WPLN)
Conservative legislators spent the better part of Tuesday questioning whether Tennessee’s chief justice broke rules that bar judges from making political endorsements. Late last year, Chief Justice Gary Wade gave an interview to the Knoxville News Sentinel defending several appellate court judges who’d received negative professional reviews. Wade argued they should get another chance, only alluding to their reelection. To state Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville), it read like an endorsement. But during a legislative hearing, the lawyers who handle judicial oversight cleared the chief justice.
Tennessee’s Online Privacy Act Will Protect Employees (Memphis Daily News)
Employees and job applicants will have more than the New Year to celebrate on Jan. 1 as Tennessee’s Employee Online Privacy Act protecting employees’ and job applicants’ online privacy takes effect. The Act limits an employer’s ability to gain access to personal Internet accounts. And any person or entity, including the state and local governments, with one or more employees is an employer. The statute prohibits employers from asking for passwords that allow access to an employee’s personal Internet accounts; compelling employees to add the employer or an employment agency to the list of contacts associated with a personal Internet account; compelling an employee to access personal Internet accounts in the employer’s presence so the employer can observe the contents; and taking adverse action, failing to hire, or otherwise penalizing an employee or applicant because the individual refused to disclose the information outlined above. Is there any information that an employer can ask for?
Sparks touts success of Jobs4TN (Daily News Journal)
Tennessee Rep. Mike Sparks, in partnership with Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, presents a Jobs4Tn job fair from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday at Smyrna High School located at 100 Bulldogs Dr. in Smyrna. A variety of job opportunities will all levels of skill requirements will be available. “This is an annual event I look forward to each year,” Sparks said. “This is our third year, and each year we had to find a larger location due to large turn outs.” According to the Department of Labor, Mike Sparks’ job fair has been the best Jobs4TN event in Tennessee, credit Sparks gives to the volunteers who has helped to make this event successful.
Brooks Ouster Recommended On Residency (Memphis Daily News)
Henri Brooks is no longer a Shelby County Commissioner, according to the Shelby County Attorney’s office. A report from Shelby County Attorney Marcy Ingram released Tuesday, June 24, concludes that Brooks does not live in commission district 2, the district she has represented for the last eight years, and therefore cannot hold the office under terms of state law and the Shelby County government charter. The Shelby County charter specifically says that if a commissioner voluntarily moves their residence out of the district they represent, they forfeit their commission seat immediately.
Tennessee Ranks High For Lightning Damage Costs (WTVF-TV Nashville)
A survey by a national insurance company ranked Tennessee in the top ten states for the number of claims for damaged caused by lightning. State Farm Insurance said Tennessee was number six on its list with 1,050 claims, totaling $5,649,955 in damage. Georgia led the nation in claims resulting from lightening in 2013 with nearly $15 million paid out, according to State Farm. Lightning can cause damage to many areas of your home and property. “I’ve seen it blow holes in water pipes, allow Freon to escape from air conditioners, blow the electrical panels up, actually set the house on fire,” said Jerry Bone, owner of Westside Electric Service in Nashville.
Courting the rural vote: Fleischmann, Wamp hone strategies (TFP/Brogdon)
The GOP primary race for Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District may come down to how much political pull the milkman has — or which candidate puts the most sweat into the district’s rural counties. Weston Wamp is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann a second time in the Aug. 7 state primary. This time, with a head-to-head race against the second-term Ooltewah Republican and having lost every outlying county in 2012, Wamp is spending three days a week on the road, wrapping his message to rural voters in faith and the flag, and doubling down on good-old-fashioned campaigning. Fleischmann is relying on another tried-and-true political strategy — garnering support from former opponents along with a host of other big party names.
Some CHA renters will get federally mandated rent increase (TFP/Putman)
Some residents of public housing in Chattanooga will see their rent rise by more than $200 per month under nationwide increases ordered by the federal government. The increases will affect only public housing residents who choose to pay a flat rate rather than a percentage of their income, or nearly 10 percent of Chattanooga Housing Authority residents, said the agency’s executive director, Betsy McCright. Flat-rate renters at College Hill Courts, East Lake Courts and Emma Wheeler Homes with three-bedroom apartments could see their rent rise by $223 per month, with rent going from $515 per month to $738.
Sick Drawn to New Coverage in Health-Law Plans (Wall Street Journal)
People enrolled in new plans under the health law are showing higher rates of serious health conditions than other insurance customers, according to an early analysis of medical claims, putting pressure on insurers around the country as they prepare to propose rates for next year. Among those health-law marketplace enrollees who have seen a doctor or other health-care provider in the first quarter of this year, around 27% have significant health issues such as diabetes, psychiatric conditions, asthma, heart problems or cancer, the data show.
Surprising Findings on Two-Year vs. Four-Year Degrees (Wall Street Journal)
Who earns more, a recent graduate from a flagship state university with a bachelor’s degree or one who finishes a two-year program at a little-known community college? The answer isn’t so clear. As states for the first time mine graduates’ salary data from public colleges, they are finding that paychecks for holders of associate degrees in a technical field are outstripping many grads with four-year degrees, at least early in a career. The growing body of data, from states including Texas, Colorado and Indiana, provides a sober new look at the value of a postsecondary education in a slowly recovering economy.
NRC chairwoman sees ‘no show stoppers’ at Watts Bar nuclear plant (TFP/Flessner)
More than four decades after construction began at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, nearly 3,200 TVA and contract employees are working around the clock to finish what should be America’s first new nuclear reactor of the 21st century. Despite previous delays and cost overruns, the head of the final $4 billion-plus construction phase for the Unit 2 reactor at Watts Bar said Tuesday the project “is on time and on budget” and should be completed next year. “We are still moving ahead toward being able to generate power by December 2015,” TVA Senior Vice President Mike Skaggs said.
ORNL part of project to push boundaries (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Munger)
Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Titan, a Cray XK7 system with a hybrid architecture, has retained its No. 2 position on the TOP500 list of the world’s fastest supercomputers. According to the new list, released earlier this week, China’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer is still the world’s fastest machine with a performance of about 33.86 petaflops — that’s more than 33 million billion mathematical calculations per second. The United States has 233 of the world’s TOP500 supercomputers, far and away the most of any country, but that number is down from 265 on the previous list released in November 2013.
Metro board approves five charter schools (Tennessean/Garrison)
Five new charter schools received the green light from the Metro school board Tuesday, overcoming cost concerns of some members and continuing Nashville’s steady growth of a model that has been the source of contentious debate here. Fast-growing South Nashville will be home to four of the new schools, while the nation’s largest charter operator will take over a still-undetermined low-performing elementary school — each, for the most part, follows a set of priorities the Metro school board outlined last fall. Approvals, all recommended for clearance by Director of Schools Jesse Register’s staff, will bring the number of publicly-financed, privately-operated charters to 25 by the time the new batch opens in 2015.
Board denies Springfield charter school application (Tennessean/Reeves)
The Robertson County Board of Education on Tuesday denied the application for a charter school in Springfield. Stephanie Mason, supervisor of federal programs for Robertson County Schools, who was a part of the committee organized within the school district to review the application, presented the committee’s recommendation to the board. Mason said it was the committee’s conclusion that the application submitted by the charter school group and the Arkansas-based company seeking to open a charter elementary school in Springfield did not meet state requirements regarding academics, operations and finances.
Hopson Contract Extension Represents Reform Mandate (Memphis Daily News)
Public school superintendents in Tennessee are not elected in a popular vote anymore. They are appointed by school boards – the only hiring decision school boards make. So when the Shelby County Schools board voted 6-0 Monday, June 23, to extend the three-year contract of superintendent Dorsey Hopson through June 2018, it was a mandate by the board for the student achievement gains Hopson and the board have set as goals. Those goals will be marked by the progress the class of 2025 makes between now and graduation day.
Editorial: DCS computer errors have human impact (Tennessean)
Computer errors are in fact human errors, no matter what you may see in movies. So what may be the biggest continuing problem with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is not that different from the troubles plaguing its history. It was only recently that a progress report claimed that DCS had turned a corner toward resolution of serious accountability and efficiency issues around its mission of carrying out child abuse investigations and administering juvenile justice. The report was rosier than the reality. DCS’ 4-year-old computer system, which has cost taxpayers $38 million and counting, continues to be riddled with errors.
Editorial: College cost rises again; Legislature avoids issue (Daily News Journal)
Students at Middle Tennessee State University and other state post-secondary institutions did not receive good news last week. Costs are going up again. The Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees MTSU, and the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees again approved increases in tuition and fees. MTSU students will pay at least $348 more per semester, beginning in the fall, and the amount of the increases vary from school to school. Costs remain competitive with other states, but what is galling to those who administer state higher education, however, is the failure of the state Legislature to provide sufficient funding for post-secondary education needs in the state.