This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Cadillac, GMC vehicles headed to Spring Hill plant (Tennessean/Williams)
It’s being called the worst-kept secret in Spring Hill: Sometime within the next few months, General Motors will begin gearing up its plant there to build two new crossover utility vehicles for Cadillac and GMC. While it’s already public knowledge — confirmed by General Motors and the United Auto Workers union — that the plant will get two new midsize vehicles to assemble in the near future, GM has not officially announced which models they will be, or even which brands. But suppliers GM has contracted to make components for the new vehicles are already building facilities or adding capacity to supply those parts to the GM plant, and have identified the vehicles as midsize crossovers from the GMC and Cadillac lines.
Governors express unity on highway funding (Tennessean/Sisk)
Governors gathering in Nashville are already making themselves heard on a major issue they face — transportation funding. Members of the National Governors Association, which kicked off its summer meeting Friday, are pressing Washington to take action on legislation that would extend funding for the Highway Trust Fund into the spring. In a letter to congressional leaders released ahead of the conference, the NGA urged congressional leaders to take action before road construction grinds to a halt. “It’s essential that we just have some kind of a resolution,” said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, the association’s chairwoman.
Govs gather in TN: security, Common Core, road funding on agenda (CA/Locker)
The nation’s governors gathered in Nashville Friday for three days of talks on jobs, transportation funding, health care, Common Core state academic standards and the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border. The National Governors Association’s annual summer meeting is underway in Tennessee for the third time in its 106-year history, after earlier conferences in 1951 in Gatlinburg and 1984 in Nashville. About 28 or 29 governors and hundreds of staffers and corporate sponsors are registered to attend through Sunday. Vice President Joe Biden spoke Friday, condemning political gridlock in Washington and calling on governors of both parties to lead the nation “out of this mess we’re in. Continue to teach us a lesson by getting along with each other.”
Common Core Becomes Touchy Subject for Governors Group (Wall St. Journal)
The National Governors Association was one of the founders of Common Core, a set of academic standards aimed at raising student achievement. But as Democratic and Republican governors gathered here for summer meetings, Common Core wasn’t on the official agenda, a sign of how the bipartisan idea has become a political minefield. Three Republican-led states recently abandoned Common Core, concerned that national standards would allow President Barack Obama too much power to affect education policy. They include the state represented by the current governors’ association chairwoman, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.
Alexander calls for cutting strings to education money (Tennessean/Sisk)
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander on Friday called for rolling back education policies put in place by the last two presidents in order to free states to devise their own. The Tennessee Republican said during a panel discussion Friday at the National Governors Association conference that former President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind measures and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program have combined to create a “national school board” that effectively dictates education policies. He said the federal government should offer states more block grants to devise their own programs.
Vice President Joe Biden asks for governors’ help during Nashville trip (TN/Cass)
Vice President Joe Biden called on the nation’s governors Friday in Nashville to help break partisan gridlock and lead the way in building infrastructure and investing in job training programs. Speaking to about 30 state leaders gathered for the National Governors Association’s annual meeting at the Omni Nashville Hotel, Biden said governors typically respect one another personally regardless of who’s a Republican and who’s a Democrat, unlike politicians in Washington. “You’ve got to lead us out of this mess we’re in,” the Democratic vice president said.
VP Joe Biden Speaks To Governors At NGA Meeting In Nashville (WTVF-TV Nash)
Vice President Joe Biden spoke to the nation’s governors in Nashville Friday for the opening session of the National Governors Association summer meeting. Biden arrived at the Omni Hotel in downtown Nashville just before 1:30 p.m. Friday. He was the featured guest speaker at the opening session of the four-day conference, which started Thursday. His plane touched down at Nashville International Airport around 11 a.m. Several roads around the airport and into the downtown area were blocked as his motorcade was escorted by Metropolitan Nashville Police.
Comptroller: TN Ranking Among Most Corrupt States Not Necessarily Bad (TNR)
A recent study showing that Tennessee is the third most corrupt state in the nation behind Mississippi and Louisiana isn’t particularly bothersome to the state’s Comptroller of the Treasury, Justin Wilson. In fact, it is a sign the state is doing things right when it comes to rooting out and remedying corruption among public officials in state and local government, he told a meeting of the Joint Fiscal Review Committee on Tuesday. Comptroller Wilson made his comments after delivering an overview of his agency’s inner workings as reported in its quarterly report. The study that was indirectly referenced during the Fiscal Review Committee hearing was published in the May/June 2014 issue of Public Administration Review.
TWRA investigates nails, broken glass placed on bike trails (NS/Jones)
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is investigating an incident in which nails were placed on bike trails in the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, according to TWRA Public Information Officer Matt Cameron. “That’s kind of where we’re at,” said Cameron. “Anytime there’s a threat to human or public safety, we’re definitely going to address that. We’re cooperating with the cyclists.” Roofing nails and clear push pins were found at the intersection of the Bluff and Dozer trails around noon Sunday, according to Allan Mueller, a cyclist who got a flat tire while on the trails.
TWRA: 14-year-old girl killed in jet ski crash on Boone Lake (Herald-Courier)
A crash involving two jet skis on Boone Lake has killed one of the riders, according to preliminary information from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency. The crash occurred just after 2:45 p.m. near the area of Goodman Cemetery Road and involved two young ski riders, according to TWRA Public Information Officer Matthew Cameron. The two riders were members of the same family and a 14-year-old girl was killed as a result of the impact between the two water crafts, he said. He did not release any information on the condition of the other rider.
State: No fluoride referendum available in Oliver Springs (News-Sentinel/Fowler)
For nearly two years, officials of this small town have been under the assumption they could have a referendum asking residents whether they want to continue to have fluoride in their drinking water. But when they asked Roane County election officials to put the question on the November ballot, they were conveyed a surprising answer from the state: Such a vote can’t be conducted. “There’s not a provision in state law to allow this to happen,” Blake Fontenay, spokesman for the Department of State’s Division of Elections Office, said of the referendum request. That contradicts what the town has been told on several occasions by a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation employee, Mayor Chris Hepler said.
Senators file complaint against Judge Casey Moreland (Tennessean/Tamburin)
Three Tennessee state senators have filed a complaint against Davidson County Judge Casey Moreland in the wake of his controversial decision to waive the 12-hour “cooling-off” period and release a man accused of abusing his girlfriend. Sens. Mike Bell, Randy McNally and Brian Kelsey have submitted the complaint to the Board of Judicial Conduct, which is charged with investigating allegations of misconduct by the state’s judges. In the complaint the senators say Moreland’s actions “have done nothing but promote distrust, suspicion and a belief that the ‘good ole boy’ system pervades the judiciary.”
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais diagnosed with cancer (Tennessean/Barton)
Rep. Scott DesJarlais has cancer and will undergo extensive therapy beginning next week, the congressman announced Friday. But doctors believe they have caught it in plenty of time, the congressman said in an interview. The cancer is in his neck, DesJarlais said, declining to give additional details. DesJarlais, R-Jasper, had a biopsy Monday and learned the results Wednesday night. He was back in Tennessee on Thursday undergoing more tests. “It’s not the news you want to get, but the good news is it’s very treatable, very curable,” the 50-year-old House member said, adding that doctors have told him there is a 90 percent cure rate.
Scott DesJarlais diagnosed with cancer (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., today announced he has been diagnosed with early stage cancer in his neck. He said in a news release he will undergo radiation and chemotherapy and is expected to make a full recovery. DesJarlais’ staff would not be specific about the type of cancer he has, citing medical privacy. But The Tennessean newspaper reported tests detected cancer in a lymph node. In the release, DesJarlais said he will start treatment next week in Chattanooga and that it should be mostly completed during the August congressional recess.
Test Scores Are No Sure Guide to What Students Know (Wall Street Journal)
When New York and Kentucky rolled out the first tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards, the results were dismal: Most students failed the new standardized tests, in stark contrast to the old assessments, which the vast majority passed. The results alarmed parents, but the scores on these new tests—just like those on earlier forms of assessment—reveal less about what children know than about the way the test makers decide to measure that knowledge. The National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers unveiled the Common Core standards in 2010, saying they were intended to raise academic standards, and the test scores so far appear to reflect the increased expectations.
Buzz over VW’s SUV reaches fever pitch (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Pare)
The launch of a United Auto Workers local in Chattanooga is turbocharging reports that a production decision on Volkswagen’s new sport utility vehicle will come next week. VW isn’t commenting, but workers and media outlets are fueling buzz that the automaker will announce as early as Monday that the vehicle will be assembled at its Chattanooga plant. The UAW’s effort to organize VW’s Chattanooga plant played out on the world stage earlier this year. All the while, speculation swirled around the possibility of a new production line and all that would mean for the tri-state area and the rising auto industry in the South.
John Seigenthaler dies at 86 (Nashville Post)
John Seigenthaler, the legendary former editor and publisher of The Tennessean, succumbed this morning after a long battle with cancer. He was 86. A lifelong Nashvillian, Seigenthaler rose through a star-studded Tennessean newsroom in the 1950s — one that included David Halberstam and Tom Wicker — to become the paper’s editor in 1962, following a two-year stint working for Robert F. Kennedy in the Justice Department. Under his leadership, The Tennessean gained a reputation for tough journalism, challenging the General Assembly’s exclusion of reporters from public meetings.
John Seigenthaler, longtime Tennessean editor, dies at 86 (Tennessean)
John Seigenthaler, a legendary Tennessee journalist, intimate confidant to two near-presidents and fierce advocate for racial equality, died Friday. He was 86. Mr. Seigenthaler passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by family. “We celebrate his life — his devotion to social justice, his advocacy of human rights, and his enduring loyalty to friends and family,” said his son, John Michael Seigenthaler. “He was proud of his hometown, Nashville, and grateful for the opportunity to share his energy and passion with this community.” As a reporter for The Tennessean, Mr. Seigenthaler once saved a suicidal man’s life on a bridge over the Cumberland River — a bridge eventually named after him.
Register speech on charters met with praise, criticism (Tennessean/Garrison)
Jesse Register’s stunning call to reset the “us versus them” conversation surrounding charter schools won high praise from Nashville’s business and political leaders — and it thrilled those at the helm of the city’s publicly financed, privately led charters. But his speech has complicated the Metro Schools superintendent’s relationship with his school board, just as voting begins next week for four contested seats. Amy Frogge, who raised concerns last month over the fiscal transparency of charters, said she felt “betrayed” by Register’s remarks made at a special Metro Council hearing Thursday, contending she wasn’t even made aware of the meeting until the last minute.
SCS asks city of Memphis to pay the $57 million it owes schools system (CA/Moore)
Shelby County Schools Supt. Dorsey Hopson is trying once again to get the city of Memphis to come up with a plan to pay the school system the $57 million as was ordered by the courts. In a letter to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton dated July 9, Hopson states that the school system has offered on multiple occasions to work out a payment plan and notes that there has been “no meaningful dialogue in response to our multiple offers to resolve this matter.” But Wharton said he’s talked with Hopson many times about hammering out an agreement and he is again prepared to set a date and get started.
Times Editorial: TennCare debacle bitter fruit of partisanship over governing (TFP)
There is no excuse for Tennessee to have such a fouled-up TennCare application process. It is outrageous. Hundreds of Tennesseans remain in limbo thanks to an outrageously gummed up TennCare system and its delayed $35 million computer system. Federal officials say in a harsh letter that the state’s TennCare agency is failing to follow the federal law. How fouled up is this system? Newborns who are TennCare eligible may not receive coverage for six months, and that’s just one example. That means unpaid hospital care gets passed on to taxpayers and other paying customers. Now the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is requiring the state to submit a plan to remedy its problems no later than Monday.