This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Jackson resident tapped for state art commission (Jackson Sun)
Jackson resident Patsy White will become the Tennessee Art Commission chairwoman on Tuesday. Commission members unanimously approved White’s new leadership June 10 during a quarterly meeting in Nashville, a news release stated. White will be joined by vice chairwoman Stephanie Conner of Nashville and secretary Ann Smith of Johnson City. “We are very excited to welcome Mrs. Camp as our incoming chair on July 1, 2014,” said Anne B. Pope, Tennessee Arts Commission executive director, in the news release. “She is a committed community and arts leader in Jackson and West Tennessee and has been a strong voice at the commission for the past several years. We will benefit from her experience as a long-time arts advocate and champion.”
Tennessee Signs On to Plan to Protect Dairy Industry (Clarksville Online)
Four of the most dreaded words in agriculture are Hoof and Mouth Disease, which can be devastating to livestock producers and wreak havoc on the farm economy. In conjunction with June Dairy Month, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has signed an agreement that partners Tennessee with eight other states to protect the dairy industry in the event of an HMD outbreak. Known as the Secure Milk Supply Plan, the agreement sets standards by which milk producers, haulers and processors would interact with animal health authorities to reduce the risk of spreading HMD during an outbreak.
Counting votes: Tennessee Chamber releases legislative scorecard (NBJ)
Industry on key business-related issues in the last two-year session. The state chamber released its legislative score card for the 108 th General Assembly, tracking the votes of individual members in both the House and Senate on specific legislative items the chamber put priority on. According to the chamber, lawmakers by and large voted for measures supported by the state business coalition, including workers’ compensation reform, unemployment insurance reform, a charter school authorizer bill and others. Several state representatives and senators voted exactly with the chamber’s agenda, including both Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell.
Baker Center prepares to honor its namesake (News-Sentinel/Boehnke)
Maintenance crews Friday checked the air conditioning, replaced light bulbs and tended to plant beds outside the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee. Workers measured the entry plaza for a tent. And representatives from the Tennessee Army National Guard and Rose Mortuary arrived to walk through the events planned for Monday, when the late Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr.’s body will lie in repose in the rotunda of a building bearing his name. Baker, the soft-spoken, consensus-building former senator and Tennessee statesman, died at age 88 in his home Thursday in Huntsville.
Alexander says gas holdings won’t color energy policy (Tennessean/Sisk)
A year ago, just as he was beginning his bid for a third term, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander stood before an audience at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to deliver the keynote address at a summit called “Securing America’s Future.” A “big part” of the answer, the Republican senator said, would be natural gas. “The United States … has pursued a different track, the most conspicuous example of which is finding gas and oil by unconventional means,” he said. “This has created for our country a remarkable phenomenon: a large amount of cheap, clean energy.” What Alexander says he didn’t know at the time was that 900 miles away, on the outskirts of a South Texas town, he and his wife were benefiting in a small way from the very phenomenon he touted.
Launch Tennessee receives cut of SBA funds (Memphis Business Journal)
Launch Tennessee has been selected to receive a share of $2 million in funds from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Federal and State Technology grants program. The funding is being split among 22 state and local economic develop agencies, business development centers, colleges and universities. They will support programs for innovative, technology-driven small businesses. In addition to Launch Tennessee, which is receiving the funding through the Tennessee Technology Development Corp., the University of Arkansas and Innovate Mississippi.
Review: VA a struggling agency beset with ills (Associated Press/Kuhnhenn)
Citing “significant and chronic system failures” in the nation’s health system for veterans, a review ordered by President Barack Obama portrays the Department of Veterans Affairs as a struggling agency battling a corrosive culture of distrust, lacking in resources and ill-prepared to deal with an influx of new and older veterans with a range of medical and mental health care needs. The scathing report by deputy White House chief of staff Rob Nabors says the Veterans Health Administration, the VA sub agency that provides health care to about 8.8 million veterans a year, has systematically ignored warnings about its deficiencies and must be fundamentally restructured.
On July 1, Many States Will Cut Taxes (Stateline)
Indiana and Rhode Island businesses will see a drop in their corporate tax rates on July 1. In Idaho, people and businesses purchasing software through the “cloud” will be spared sales taxes. And starting tomorrow, Maryland is beefing up tax credits related to cybersecurity, biotechnology and research and development to encourage companies to relocate to the state. July 1 is the start of most states’ fiscal years, and for the first time in years, governors and legislators are cutting some taxes, taking advantage of an improved revenue outlook and banking on the financial breaks to encourage business and job growth in their states.
States poaching businesses from other states (USA Today)
The ubiquitous billboards along Chicago expressways carry a blunt message. “Stillinnoyed? No wonder.” It’s a slap at the Land of Lincoln’s economic and financial policies. The advertiser? Neighboring Indiana, calling itself “A State that Works.” Indiana is aggressively trying to poach businesses from Illinois — a controversial economic development strategy that several other states also are employing in the battle for jobs and revenue. The dynamic playing out here is one that is being embraced by Republican governors across the country who are aggressively courting businesses in higher-tax states such as Illinois, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Missouri and New York — all states with Democratic governors.
TVA ends traditional pension for new hires employees (Times Free-Press/Flessner)
For the first time in its 81-year history, the Tennessee Valley Authority will no longer offer employees hired after Monday a traditional pension that pays a worker a monthly check for the rest of his or her life at retirement. TVA will become one of the largest electric utilities next week to give up the defined-benefit retirement plan in favor of making contributions to an individual 401(k) retirement plan. In the new plans, workers will retire with a lump sum payment based upon what they and TVA contributed to the 401(k) plan and what investment returns were earned on the money over time.
Southwest Tennessee tourism campaign gets a boost (Memphis Biz Journal)
The groups behind the “West Tennessee Day Trippin'” marketing campaign, which is focused on growing tourism in Southwest Tennessee, plan on expanding the program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development and the Memphis Area Association of Governments today announced matching grants totaling $40,000 to fund and support the small business program’s expansion in Fayette, Tipton, Lauderdale and rural Shelby County. “Tourism not only grows businesses and jobs, it brings outside revenue to the community,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode.
Tennessee teachers attend Common Core training course (Leaf Chronicle)
More than 220 teachers from across Middle Tennessee attended a Common Core State Standards training course at West Creek High School. Teachers and staff members from Montgomery, Cheatham, Robertson, Houston, Henry and Stewart counties attended the three-day training session. More than 30,000 educators from across the state will take part in training throughout the summer to learn how to implement the Common Core State Standards in their classrooms. This kicked off the first week of June in 15 schools statewide. Expectations are high in Common Core standards, which is supposed to allow teachers more creativity and flexibility in their teaching while requiring a significant shift in instructional practice.
Officials announce major heroin bust in Middle Tennessee (Tennessean/Tamburin)
Law enforcement agencies across the country have collaborated to arrest 21 people suspected of bringing a lethal cocktail of heroin and fentanyl into Middle Tennessee. The arrests were the fruit of a yearlong investigation. The Nashville-based drug ring is accused of funneling at least one kilogram of heroin, worth about $80,000, and other drug mixtures into Middle Tennessee, Northern Alabama and St. Louis. U.S. Attorney David Rivera linked the deadly drug ring with the recent “resurgence of heroin as the drug of choice” in Nashville and beyond. Metro narcotics Capt. Mike Alexander said heroin has become as common as marijuana on Nashville’s streets. “It does not discriminate,” Alexander said at a press conference announcing the arrests Friday.
Guest columnists: Raise minimum wage and fight ‘income inequality’ (Tennessean)
I commend Gov. Bill Haslam for recently acknowledging that “income inequality” is a problem. Boy, is it. In three decades, America’s richest 1 percent saw their household incomes almost quadruple. The poorest working Americans saw a percentage increase of 16 percent, only a percentage increase of one-seventeenth as much as the rich. In 1965, CEOs made 20 times more than the average worker. Today, CEOs make nearly 300 times the pay of the average worker. The rising tide that once lifted all boats now lifts only yachts. If the 1968 minimum wage of $1.60 an hour were merely adjusted for inflation, today it would be $10.74.
Editorial: Co. charter should say specifically how to remove a commissioner (CA)
As the process plays out over whether Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks will actually be ousted from her commission seat for not living in her district, it is clear the county charter needs to provide a pathway for removing someone who violates the residency rule. This week, Brooks forfeited her commission seat after an investigation by the county attorney’s office found that she did not live in District 2. Section 5.10 of the county charter reads. “Any county official who shall voluntarily remove his or her residence outside the election district from which elected or appointed shall forfeit that office immediately.”