This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Rough Country Suspension Systems to expand in Newbern (Jackson Sun)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with Rough Country Suspension Systems officials announced today the company will relocate its distribution operations to a 250,000-square-foot facility in Newbern. Headquartered in Dyersburg, Rough Country’s expansion will allow the company to more than double the size of its workforce as well as its Dyer County footprint, according to a news release. With a goal of being fully operational by late August, Rough Country’s plans include investment of $1.5 million and the creation of up to 200 new jobs over the next five years.
Governor, education chief to release TCAP data (Associated Press)
Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman are hosting an event at the state Capitol to release data on the 2013-14 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. The event is scheduled for 9:15 a.m. CDT Tuesday. TCAP scores are used in the calculation of final grades for students primarily in grades 3 through 8. The Education Department said in April that the scores would be delayed because of a change in assessments but decided to release them after experts signed off on the validity and accuracy of the results.
Mourners pay respects to former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker Jr. in Knoxville (AP)
Mourners on Monday paid their respects to former Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. at the University of Tennessee center in that bears his name. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that people began lining up outside the Baker Center for Public Policy in Knoxville well before the doors opened to view the flag-draped casket of the onetime Senate majority leader. Baker cut to the core of the 1973 Watergate hearings when he asked, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” He died Thursday at age 88. Baker in his 18 years in the Senate won widespread respect from Republicans and Democrats.
Hundreds of mourners pay tribute to Sen. Howard Baker, Jr. in Knoxville (WATE-TV)
Hundreds of people came to Knoxville Monday to say goodbye to beloved community member and politician Sen. Howard Baker, Jr. Baker’s body lay in state in the rotunda of the Howard K. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy on Cumberland Avenue on the University of Tennessee campus. Baker died Thursday at his home in Huntsville, Tenn. at age 88. Baker served the state of Tennessee in the U.S. Senate, where he eventually was elected Majority Leader, from 1967 to 1985. Baker subsequently served as chief of staff to President Reagan and U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
Family, friends and colleagues to lay Howard Baker Jr. to rest (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker Jr. will be laid to rest in Huntsville, Tenn., across the street from where he was born 88 years ago. Even though Baker held many prominent positions, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader and Chief of Staff to President Ronald Reagan, the Huntsville native remained a true son of Tennessee, never forgetting his Scott County roots. “Tennesseans are like family,” said Cissy Baker, daughter of the late senator. “When we moved to Washington when dad was elected to Senate he said, ‘Don’t ever forget that Tennessee is your home.’ And we’ve never forgotten.”
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander: Baker exemplified leadership, courage (News-Sentinel)
It was August 1960. Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair. Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen was warming up the crowd of 30,000, explaining why Vice President Richard Nixon should be president of the United States instead of Sen. John F. Kennedy. Seated on the platform behind him were Dirksen’s daughter Joy, and her husband, Howard Henry Baker Jr., a 34-year-old lawyer from Huntsville, Tenn., who looked about 24. “Jack Kennedy is a nice young man,” Dirksen was saying.
Anti-Meth Law Among Those Taking Effect July 1 (Associated Press/Johnson)
A law limiting the purchase of cold and allergy medicines used to make illegal methamphetamine is among those taking effect Tuesday, as are statutes that require more disclosure from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and allow use of the electric chair to execute death row inmates. The anti-meth law requires a prescription to obtain more than 28.8 grams of pseudoephedrine per year, which is the equivalent of about five months’ worth of the maximum dosage of medicines like Sudafed. Gov. Bill Haslam and the Senate had earlier supported a version of the bill that would have set a 14.4-gram annual limit but ultimately agreed to the House plan featuring the looser restrictions.
Memphis families still displaced after flooding (Commercial Appeal/Bailey)
Nine months pregnant, Acela Juarez waded through waist deep floodwaters with her four children on Sunday with one thing on her mind: get her family to high ground. “When I saw what was going on we had about an hour to get out. The water was already in the basement,” Juarez said Monday through Memphis police officer David Cunningham, who translated for her. “I’m so worried because I don’t know if it got into our living area.” The Juarez family joined over a hundred others displaced by the flood at the Hickory Hill Community Center, where the Red Cross and the city of Memphis Office of Emergency Management set up a temporary shelter.
Low Test Scores No Longer Option To Strip Teacher Of License (WTVF-TV Nash)
The Tennessee State Board of Education approved the first reading of a policy aimed at minimizing the paperwork for teacher licenses. Despite nearly a year of discussion, low students test scores is no longer being considered as a way to prevent renewal. “A teacher’s license is their livelihood,” Terrance Gibson, Tennessee Education Association (TEA) Assistant Executive Director said. “If you lose that…you don’t come back from that.” Last summer Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman proposed a controversial policy that would the use student test scores as a criteria for licensure renewal in an effort to keep chronically low performing teachers out of the classroom.
TN trying to combat human trafficking (WSMV-TV Nashville)
No young child ever dreams of selling themselves, but prostitution and human trafficking are thriving industries in Tennessee. Leaders and advocates are chipping away at a problem that knows no bounds. At age 14, Shelia Simpkins ran away from home and into the arms of a so-called boyfriend and pimp. “When we run away from home, we’re running from something, OK, which normally is sexual abuse,” said Simpkins. By age 20, Simpkins worked for a different man. Simpkins said he drove her and a group of girls across the country to work. One of the stops was Nashville. “You start selling your body,” said Simpkins.
Knox County woman charged with TennCare fraud (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
A Knox County woman has been charged in Anderson County with TennCare fraud. The state on Monday announced the arrest of Rachael Christine Presnell, 25, charged with fraudulently using TennCare to obtain a controlled substance by “doctor shopping” with multiple providers; using TennCare as payment; and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. Presnell was served with the charges after she was transferred to Anderson County from the Bledsoe County Correctional Facility, where she is lodged on unrelated charges. TennCare fraud is a Class E felony carrying a sentence of up to two years in prison.
See 14 new laws that take effect July 1 (Tennessean/Sisk)
July 1 marks the first day many new Tennessee laws go into effect, from new restrictions on cold medication to legislation allowing hemp farming for the first time in decades. Here are 14 new laws you may not have been aware of: 1. KNIFE POSSESSION A new law overrides local restrictions on knives, making it legal throughout the state to possess, own, sell, transfer and transport switchblades and knives with blades over 4 inches long. It also increases the penalties for using a switchblade to commit a crime. 2. SINKHOLES A measure passed in March revises the state’s requirement to provide coverage for sinkholes as part of homeowner policies, adding standards for verifying damage. Proponents say the changes will prevent fraud.
TN wine, liquor stores now can sell groceries, other items (Tennessean/Williams)
Grocery stores can’t sell wine yet — at least for two more years — but wine and liquor stores can sell groceries and other items, starting today. At least one wine and spirits merchant is taking full advantage of the change. While the options are somewhat limited, they’re much more liberal than before, when liquor stores were able to sell wine, spirits and high-alcohol-content beer, but nothing else — not even a corkscrew to open the wine, said Frances Anne Varallo, co-owner of the West Meade Wine & Liquor Mart on Harding Road.
More details circulate on signing wine-in-stores petition (Leaf Chronicle)
“Petition drives are ongoing in Clarksville,” said area petition coordinator Susie Alcorn. “If enough petition signatures are collected and deemed eligible by the (Montgomery County) Election Commission, the wine-in-retail-food-stores question will go on the ballot for the vote in November. We are encouraged by the amount of support we are receiving in Clarksville, and we need as many registered voters as possible to sign the local petition to reach the goal for this community.” You can find local petition drives on the Red, White and Food website at http://redwhiteandfood.com/events/middle-tennessee/ .
East TN liquor stores prepare to sell beer (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
Starting July 1, East Tennessee liquor stores can sell beer and other alcohol-related items for the first time. State lawmakers saw the need for businesses to stay competitive with the passing of wine in grocery stores. Cedar Bluff Discount Wine and Spirits in West Knoxville will take advantage of the law change. General Manager Terrance Pate expects their first shipment of beer to arrive on Tuesday. They already have stocked up on party supplies, like corkscrews, ice cube trays, and wine glasses. “We’ve been working on this for a good total of three months, getting all the plans laid out,” Pate said.
Is Walking Between Classes Exercise? A New Tennessee Law Says No (WPLN)
This fall, Tennessee schools will no longer be able to count walking in between classes as exercise. Since 2007, there’s been a law on the books that requires 90 minutes of physical activity a week for students. But State Senator Bill Ketron was not happy that a quarter of schools were counting class changes. He says that’s skirting the law, so he sponsored the bill to modify it. “I’ll just be frank about it, they were scamming it, because you have some teachers that might’ve been overweight or just lazy themselves, and not thinking about the end results of those kids later on in life.”
Sens. Lamar Alexander, Rand Paul hope to change Obamacare (TFP/Sher)
For a Republican incumbent under fire from GOP opponents for being a “moderate,” it doesn’t hurt to have your picture taken with a national tea party favorite as you both say you intend to replace Obamacare. That was the scene in Nashville on Monday as U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., stood side by side with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., after the two lawmakers held a closed-door session with a group of Tennessee health care executives about President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Moving to pre-empt any questions by reporters about an actual Paul endorsement in his own Aug. 7 GOP primary, Alexander said, “We’re not here to endorse each other.”
Rand Paul’s Not Endorsing Lamar Alexander (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul made yet another appearance Monday with Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, who is facing a Tea Party primary challenger. While considered one of the most moderate Republicans in the Senate, Alexander has been working in recent months to look more conservative. Before anyone could ask, Alexander denied that he was trying to get political help from the Tea Party darling. “We’re not here to endorse each other,” he said, without prompting. “Rand hasn’t asked me to endorse me for the President of the United States, and I haven’t asked him to endorse me for the senate. We’re here on business.”
Tennessee Senator Alexander unlikely to debate opponents (C. Appeal/Locker)
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander indicated Monday he’s not likely to debate his two main opponents in the Republican primary challenging his election to a third term, state Rep. Joe Carr and Memphis radiologist George Flinn. Carr on Monday morning asked Alexander to debate before “any impartial group.” But Alexander told reporters after a closed-door health care “roundtable” with Nashville health executives that he wasn’t sure. “We’ll have to see. There’s seven of us in the Republican primary for the Senate. So the first question would be: Could we schedule it in the next few weeks?”
Alexander: Republicans have chance to make changes after election (Jackson Sun)
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander visited the Henderson County Courthouse in Lexington on Monday to talk to voters about what he wants to do if he is elected for a third term. Alexander focused his talk on how he and many Republicans intend to change some policies enacted during the last six years while President Barack Obama has been in office. “I was with (Republican Sen.) Rand Paul (of Kentucky) in Nashville today. We had a roundtable on health care, about what to do about health care,” Alexander said. “Of course we opposed Obamacare. We voted against it more times than we could count.”
Duncan hosts veterans discussion in Knoxville (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
President Barack Obama plans to nominate former Procter and Gamble executive Robert McDonald to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Monday, Congressman John Duncan Jr. invited leaders of East Tennessee veterans groups to a listening session in his office. He plans to take suggestions from the group to the new secretary. Most of the comments from the group praised the services of the Knoxville clinic and the hospital in Johnson City. Some of the suggestions they made were: Move older veterans to Medicare benefits, freeing up services for younger veterans.
Democrat Gordon Ball launches ad campaign for U.S. Senate primary (TFP/Sher)
Democrat Gordon Ball launched his first U.S. Senate campaign ad Monday with a pledge that he will remain on the air with ads through the Aug. 7 Democratic primary. Ball’s campaign says it is airing in media markets “throughout Tennessee,” although Ball recently said it would not include Chattanooga, at least initially. The spot is called “Backbone.” “Today we launch our first TV commercial of the campaign” Ball said in a news release. “‘Backbone’ will be a call to arms for Tennessee Democrats, letting them know that this is a new and better day for working Tennesseans and families.”
Proton Power expanding, lining up commercial clients (News-Sentinel/Marcum)
Since setting up shop in a vintage home in Roane County about six years ago, entrepreneurs Sam Weaver and Dan Hensley now oversee a renewable energy business with 100 workers at three locations in East Tennessee. After years developing a process for making synthetic fuel, Proton Power Inc., is in the early stages of commercial operation. It has installed its first commercial system for electric power generation at Wampler’s Farm Sausage, in Lenoir City, and has about nine customers. “We are very pumped that the first commercial use of this system in the world will be with our company,” said Ted Wampler Jr., president of Wampler’s Farm Sausage.
Wisconsin: Officials discuss streamlining civil service rules (Journal-Sentinel)
Three years after repealing most collective bargaining for Wisconsin’s public workers, Gov. Scott Walker and his appointees want to remove red tape that slows hiring for state jobs — protections that union officials see as safeguards against political patronage. In recent months, administration officials told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel multiple times that they weren’t looking to change the state’s century-old system for placing qualified workers in public service and weeding out partisan hacks… Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam got the legislation through the GOP-controlled House in his state with some Democratic backing after making some compromises with the Tennessee state employees union.
Guest columnist: How Unions Use ‘Common Core’ to Undermine Reform (WSJ)
This year’s battle over the introduction of Common Core standards in public schools has diverted attention from a more important but quieter battle led by teachers unions to eliminate school accountability and teacher evaluations. These two measures are the real engines that will drive educational improvement, and it’s critical that attempts to do away with them be blocked. The Common Core was designed to replace the hodge-podge of standards in place in the individual states with a national proclamation of what all students should know in each subject and grade. The standards were developed under the auspices of the National Governors Association and strongly backed by the U.S. Department of Education.