This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Times Editorial: It’s official, the SUV — and real jobs — are ours (Times Free-Press)
What a relief to finally get to write that the new Volkswagen SUV will, in fact, be built in Chattanooga. The announcement, made Monday morning in Wolfsburg, Germany, has been expected — hoped for would be a better description — since last year. At times — with all thepolitical grandstanding — the jobs and economic development such an announcement would bring seemed dangerously close to slipping out of our future. But VW seemed committed to Chattanooga even when some of our elected leaders did not. Happily for the Chattanooga area, the final announcement was even better than we expected, with nearly twice as many new jobs as previously discussed.
Free-Press Editorial: No blue Monday for job market with VW’s CrossBlue (TFP)
Good news came to Chattanooga on Monday tied in a bright CrossBlue package. Volkswagen’s long-awaited announcement that it will invest $600 million in its Enterprise South assembly plant to produce a new sports utility vehicle means around 2,000 jobs in Hamilton County. Unexpected but also welcome was the news from a news conference in Germany that the company will build a new research and development center here that will employ 200 people. The seven-seat SUV, which has been dubbed the CrossBlue and originally was unveiled at the 2013 Detroit auto show, can be expected to start rolling off the line in late 2016, officials said.
Volkswagen to Build New SUV in Tennessee, Add 2,000 Jobs (AP/Schelzig, Krisher)
Volkswagen plans to build a new seven-passenger SUV at its factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, adding about 2,000 factory jobs as it tries to reverse U.S. sales that have fallen for the past two years. The German automaker announced Monday that it will invest $600 million to expand the factory and set up a new research center that will employ about 200 engineers. The research facility will coordinate products for North America to quickly include customer feedback into planned and existing models, the company said. The announcement comes after months of political wrangling over the role of organized labor at the factory, which now employs about 1,500 workers and makes only one model, the Passat midsize car.
Volkswagen to Invest $900 Million in U.S. Plant (Wall Street Journal)
Volkswagen AG VOW3.XE +0.65% is doubling down on its bet on the lucrative U.S. market, unveiling plans to make a key new product in Tennessee and to form an engineering team that would better tailor vehicles for American buyers. On Monday, Europe’s largest auto maker by sales said it would pump $900 million into its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant to build a seven-passenger sport-utility vehicle there by late 2016. The move would add 2,000 new jobs, VW said, and could increase the role of U.S. manufacturing in the German auto giant’s future. Volkswagen also is taking a page from some of its key Japanese and German rivals by adding 200 engineering jobs at a new research and development center in Tennessee.
Volkswagen to Add S.U.V. Line to Chattanooga Plant (New York Times)
Volkswagen announced Monday that it would build a sport utility vehicle at its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant, the site of a contentious unionization effort that led the United Automobile Workers last week to take the unusual step of forming a local that is not recognized by the automaker. The factory, where the automaker produces only the Volkswagen Passat, had been competing for the new crossover S.U.V. against a VW plant in Mexico, and that fight became a crucial point in the bitter public battle over a unionization vote in February. The production line, to be ready by 2016, will be accompanied by the creation of a research and development center.
Volkswagen to add 2,000 jobs in Tennessee for new SUV (USA Today)
Volkswagen says it will build a mid-size, seven-passenger crossover SUV at its Chattanooga, Tenn., factory in 2016, adding 2,000 jobs and helping VW plug a hole in its U.S. lineup. VW says it will invest $900 million — $600 million of that directly in Tennessee — to expand operations at Chattanooga, where it builds the Passat mid-size sedan. Tennessee is contributing $165.8 million top help pay for the plant expansion,and $12 million to train new workers. The move comes amid simmering uncertainty involving the United Auto Workers, which lost a vote earlier this year in its effort to organize and represent the VW workers at Chattanooga. The UAW is establishing Local 42 in Chattanooga anyway, and inviting workers to join.
VW announces Chattanooga-made SUV, and 2,000 new jobs (TFP/Pare)
Volkswagen will invest $600 million and create 2,000 new jobs to produce a new sport utility vehicle in Hamilton County. Also, the company will build a new research and development center that will employ 200 in Chattanooga, the company announced today in a news conference in Germany. Martin Winterkorn, VW’s chief executive, said plans are to start production in late 2016 to produce the seven-seat SUV dubbed the CrossBlue that was unveiled in the 2013 Detroit auto show. “The USA remains one of the most important markets for the VW brand,” he said. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the action will impact thousands of lives in the Chattanooga area.
Volkswagen expansion continues win streak for Tennessee (Tennessean/Williams)
The South’s auto industry continues its phenomenal growth, as evidenced by recent expansions expected to bring thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in new investment – including a deal announced Monday that will bring production of a new SUV to the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. With the Volkswagen win, Tennessee is now at the forefront of the industry’s growth. Recent gains include a new Infiniti engine plant that opened this month in Decherd; a pending expansion that will add two new vehicles to the General Motors plant in Spring Hill; and projects over the past year that have brought new vehicles and significantly bumped up employment at Nissan’s Smyrna plant.
Haslam announces Volkswagen Group of America to expand (Clarksville Online)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Volkswagen Group of America officials announced today the company will expand its sole U.S. manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Volkswagen will add an additional manufacturing line and create the National Research & Development and Planning Center of Volkswagen Group of America. Volkswagen’s total global investment for the expansion will be $900 million, with $600 million invested in Tennessee and 2,000 new jobs being created in Hamilton County. “Today is an exciting day not just for Chattanooga and Hamilton County but for all of Tennessee, and I want to thank Volkswagen for its significant long-term investment in our state,” Haslam said.
Haslam, VW announce $600 million Chattanooga expansion, new jobs (D. Times)
Volkswagen Group of America will expand its Chattanooga facility to build a midsize SUV for the U.S. market, investing $600 million and creating 2,000 new jobs in Hamilton county, according to a release from Gov. Bill Haslam. “Today is an exciting day not just for Chattanooga and Hamilton County but for all of Tennessee, and I want to thank Volkswagen for its significant long-term investment in our state,” Haslam said in the release. “The impact of this announcement goes far beyond the 2,000 new jobs because of the large multiplier effect of the automotive industry, and adding an additional manufacturing line and the National Research & Development and Planning Center sends a clear signal that Tennessee can compete with anyone in the global marketplace.”
VW set to add jobs to plant New SUV line slated (Cleveland Daily Banner)
Within the framework of its Strategy 2018 plan, the Volkswagen Group is expanding its industrial footprint in the U.S. The board of directors of Volkswagen Group of America announced today the decision to award the production of the new midsize SUV to the Chattanooga plant in Southeast Tennessee. The group will be investing a total of approximately $900 million in the production of a newly developed, seven-passenger SUV, and creating 2,000 additional jobs in the U.S. About $600 million will be invested in Tennessee. “The United States of America is, and will remain, one of the most important markets for Volkswagen.
Volkswagen announces SUV made in Chattanooga (Nooga)
Reaffirming their 2018 goal of selling 800,000 vehicles annually, Volkswagen leaders announced that the new midsize SUV would be made in Chattanooga, bringing 2,000 jobs to the area and representing a $900 million investment. Officials also announced that a national research, development and planning center will be located here, which means about 200 jobs. The SUV will join the locally made Passat starting at the end of 2016. Leaders made the announcement from Germany. Mayors Andy Berke and Jim Coppinger joined VW leaders, Sen. Bob Corker and Gov. Bill Haslam at the event, which aired on a live webcast this morning.
Volkswagen to Create 2,000 Jobs, Invest $600 Million in Expansion for SUV (WDEF)
You saw it live on WDEF News 12 during the 8:00am hour this morning, Volkswagen made the announcement from Germany that it would be building its new SUV here in Chattanooga. WDEF News 12 reported it first on Friday. First seen at the 2013 North American International Auto Show as a concept vehicle, the CrossBlue SUV will roll off the production line in Chattanooga by the end of 2016. 2,000 additional jobs will be created to build the 7 passenger, 3 row vehicle. Martin Winterkorn, Board Chair for Volkswagen, says “this vehicle ladies and gentlemen will be a true American car. Big, attractive, and with lots of hi-tech on board. But above all, this midsized SUV will be built by real Americans.”
Major Volkswagen Chattanooga Expansion Announced, 2,000 New Jobs (WTVC)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Volkswagen Group of America officials announced today the company will expand its sole U.S. manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Volkswagen will add an additional manufacturing line and create the National Research & Development and Planning Center of Volkswagen Group of America. The company will invest $600 million in this expansion and create 2,000 new jobs in Hamilton County. “Today is an exciting day not just for Chattanooga and Hamilton County but for all of Tennessee, and I want to thank Volkswagen for its significant long-term investment in our state,” Haslam said.
Volkswagen to build new SUV at Chattanooga plant, add 2,000 jobs (WKRN-TV)
Some auto suppliers in Middle Tennessee knew of Volkswagen’s plan to expand its current plant in Chattanooga and begin building new SUVs. The announcement was made Monday. Kim Ketchum, Corporate Director of Business Development for Magneti Marelli, told News 2 it is possible, and maybe likely, that contracts have already been signed by some manufacturers of car parts. “Automotive manufacturing in the state of Tennessee is a huge driver in the state economy,” Ketchum said. “It doesn’t mean just jobs for the plant in Chattanooga. It’s going to mean more jobs across the state,” she added. Magneti Marelli makes headlights, taillights, shock absorbers and suspension systems in its Pulaski plant.
VW announcement enforces Tennessee as ‘auto hot spot’ (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
Monday’s announcement from Volkswagen on their new SUV is just another sign of Tennessee’s growing automotive industry, with no apparent “stop signs” on the horizon. “The opportunity of the automotive industry, all the different tiers that feed that industry,” said Teresa Sherrill Duncan, the vice president of workforce development and student affairs at Roane State Community College. “They’re driving that as part of one of our strengths. The advanced manufacturing across automotive spectrums is one of our strengths.” The school offers a year-long course on automotive manufacturing, one that’s seen more interest with the growing automotive sector.
VW’s U.S. plant to add 2,000 jobs (CNN Money)
Volkswagen is nearly doubling the employment at its Chattanooga, Tenn. plant, bringing a new SUV and 2,000 jobs to its only U.S. factory. The German automaker says it is investing $600 million in the plant to build the seven-passenger vehicle by the end of 2016. The plant, which opened in 2011, has about 2,400 workers currently. It has become the center of the United Auto Workers’ efforts to organize workers at plants built in the South by foreign automakers.
VW to spend $900 million at Tennessee plant to build new SUV (Reuters)
Volkswagen will spend $900 million to build a mid-sized SUV at its U.S. plant in Tennessee, nearly doubling the factory’s workforce, in an effort to revitalise sales in the world’s second-largest auto market. VW said on Monday it had chosen its factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee instead of a plant in Puebla, Mexico to produce a seven-passenger SUV starting in late 2016, creating up to 2,000 jobs at the site that currently has almost 2,500 staff. VW’s $1 billion factory in Chattanooga started operating in 2011, building a cheaper, roomier version of the carmaker’s mid-sized Passat sedan specifically designed for American customers.
Volkswagen to Build SUV in Tennessee to Confront Toyota (Bloomberg)
Volkswagen AG (VOW), seeking to revive flagging U.S. sales, will add a mid-sized sport-utility vehicle in 2016 to its factory in Tennessee that’s been a battleground for labor seeking to organize at foreign-owned carmakers in the U.S. South. Volkswagen, based in Wolfsburg, Germany, said today at a news conference that it would spend $900 million, including $600 million at VW’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to build the seven-seat model. The company, which ranks second to Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) in global auto sales, is looking to the expansion to shore up its lineup in a growing segment.
VW to build new crossover in U.S., add 2,000 jobs (Automotive News)
Volkswagen AG will assemble a new family-hauling crossover at its plant in Chattanooga and invest $900 million to expand the factory in a push to double U.S. sales of VW-brand vehicles by 2018. Production is slated to begin in late 2016 at the Chattanooga plant, Volkswagen’s sole U.S. assembly site, where it builds the Passat mid-sized sedan. Volkswagen will invest $900 million in the project and add about 2,000 jobs at the plant, CEO Martin Winterkorn said today in a press conference near the company’s headquarters here. VW will also open a North American vehicle design and development center in Chattanooga to be staffed by about 200 engineers to better cater its vehicles to the North American market, Winterkorn said.
Volkswagen to expand Chattanooga plant (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Volkswagen announced this morning that the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga will expand to begin building a new mid-size SUV for the U.S. market. The move means Volkswagen will hire an additional 2,000 workers. Company officials also said they will build a new U.S. development center there that will employ 200 engineers in designing and supporting cars for North America. The company plans to spend about $900 million to expand the plant and will hire more workers.
Volkswagen picks Chattanooga for expansion despite labor strife (D. Free-Press)
German automaker Volkswagen today confirmed that it will add 2,000 jobs at its Chattanooga, Tenn. plant to build a new mid-size crossover, ending speculation about the automaker’s future production plans for the three-row vehicle amid questions about whether the factory will be unionized. The company said it will invest $900 million to launch production of the all-new crossover by the end of the 2016. The vehicle will become the second vehicle in production at the plant, joining the Passat sedan. The State of Tennessee added a lucrative sweetener to close the deal: a $165.8 million grant for expanding the plant and a $12 million grant for training new workers.
The Chattanooga Jobs Payoff (Wall Street Journal)
The February vote to reject an organizing bid by the United Auto Workers paid off big for workers in Tennessee on Monday. Volkswagen announced it will invest $900 million to build a new sport-utility vehicle in Chattanooga, creating 2,000 jobs that would probably have gone to Mexico if the UAW had won. VW already makes its Passat sedan in Chattanooga, and the company will add an assembly line to build a seven-passenger SUV for the U.S. market as well as a new research and development center. That decision was far from obvious before the February vote. Earlier this month BMW announced it will spend about $1 billion to build about 150,000 cars a year in Mexico, and VW could easily have done the same.
VW research center at Chattanooga plant seen as first for Tennessee (TFP/Pare)
A first-for-Tennessee research center that Volkswagen will erect in Chattanooga is expected to help the area woo more suppliers — and jobs — as companies will try to integrate their products to VW’s new parts designs. Experts said Monday that the center revealed by VW, supported by 200 engineering-type positions, represents an evolution of the auto industry in Tennessee and ultimately means more high-paying, high-tech jobs. “Tennessee is known for manufacturing automobiles but it hasn’t established the research and development process,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. “It’s a new day in Tennessee in terms of innovation.”
Volkswagen announcement could affects local STEM education (WDEF-TV Chatt.)
Volkswagen’s news could also mean renewed excitement for engineering and STEM students in the area. Teachers and engineers in the community who said they look forward to the opportunities today’s announcement brings. Chattanooga State’s President James Catanzaro is one of them. “Elation, excitement we know [it’s] great things for our community and great things for our college,” said Catanzaro. Chatt State has been the training partner for the Volkswagen Academy since day one.
Students And Employees Prepare For 2,000 Volkswagen Jobs (WTVC-TV Chatt)
Chattanooga will be the home to Volkswagen’s new SUV production line. Today, city and Volkswagen officials named the scenic city as their choice for a 900-Million dollar investment. Just hours after the announcement, VW employees were already sizing up the future employment opportunities. Employee Scotty Aycock tells us “the more jobs that come in the more for the people that have been there and put in the time to move up the chain.” VW is prepared to invest 600 million dollars in Chattanooga’s second plant and add 2,000 new positions.
New SUV brings hope for students’ job opportunities (WRCB-TV Chattanooga)
Volkswagen’s new CrossBlue SUV is bringing a lot of hope to the futures of local students, especially when it comes to jobs. That includes Chattanooga State Community College’s partnership with the Volkswagen Academy. No word yet if the new SUV means the VW Academy will be expanding its current programs, but educators say it’s definitely a good sign for students or anyone looking for a new career. “This is awesome, this is like the headlines back in 2008. It’s Chattanooga — again,” said Tim McGhee, Dean of Engineering & Technology at Chattanooga State.
VW’S Ripple Effect: How Many Non-VW Jobs Expected After Expansion? (WTVC)
The buzz around Chattanooga isn’t all about job creation for Volkswagen employees. It’s about the thousands more jobs projected outside the plant. The Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce predicts about 3,600 new jobs with a payroll of around $218 million dollars. The news local VW suppliers like eSpin hopeful for the future. eSpin planted roots in Enterprise South in 2004. When Volkswagen came to Chattanooga, business came with it. “After we became a supplier, we started growing. Our product line grew. We were able to expand to hire more people to meet the demands of Volkswagen,” said James Adams with eSpin Technologies, Inc.
What’s being said about the Volkswagen announcement (WRBC-TV Chattanooga)
Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen AG CEO: “I send my best wishes to Tennessee, to our colleagues at Volkswagen in Chattanooga. The United States of America is and will remain one of our most important markets – both for the Volkswagen brand and for the entire Group. This vehicle will be a real American – large, attractive and with many high-tech features on board. Above all, the midsize SUV will be made by real Americans.”
VW workers react to expansion announcement (WRCB-TV Chattanooga)
A sense of excitement and pride is in the air at Volkswagen Chattanooga. Channel 3 spoke with employees who were on shift doing their regular work Monday morning when the good news broke. They gathered for a replay of the news conference Channel 3 had live streamed from Germany Monday morning. They got to hear for themselves the role their hard work thus far played in securing this investment for Chattanooga. “There was a hint that this was going to be the announcement but when Dr. Winterkorn made the formal announcement everybody was standing and applauding,” Volkswagen Chattanooga employee Dan Durain said.
Volkswagen: Local Reaction (WDEF-TV Chattanooga)
You don’t have to be a Volkswagen employee to take pride in what’s going on there. Monday’s announcement may mean an employment opportunity for you or a family member. And it could mean more business for your company. Chattanooga leaders are looking at all those possibilities, and its a memorable day here in the Tennessee Valley. RON HARR, PRES. & CEO, GREATER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE “Oh, what a great day for Volkswagen, and a great day for Chattanooga. The news we’ve all been hoping for several years now.”
Importers and Dealers Excited by VW SUV Announcement (WDEF-TV Chattanooga)
“I am so excited this came in my lifetime I never thought I would see it” Joe Kirkpatrick of Tri State Imports in Cleveland says he has seen car lines and factories come and go. But after 40 years as a Volkswagen importer feels the new SUV will have a knock on affect for businesses throughout the region. “When the Volkswagen plant first opened in Chattanooga, we noticed a spike in our business almost immediately it breeds a lot of enthusiasm among the VW community and also makes a lot of interest for people who have an older VW to maybe buy an old one and restore it as well as buy a new product.”
TIMELINE: Volkswagen in Chattanooga (WRCB-TV Chattanooga)
Rumors were swirling in 2008. Chattanooga had a prime plot for an automaker: 1,600 acres at Enterprise South. On the table were lots of land, easy access to all modes of transportation, and a city, a county, and a state hungry to strike a deal. Toyota had considered the Scenic City site in 2007, but opted for Mississippi, instead. Then, there was Volkswagen looking to get back into the US market in a big way. By summer of 2008, it was reportedly down to two: a site in Huntsville, Alabama, and here, the rehabbed former home of the Volunteer Ammunitions Plant.
State, local governments boost incentives to lure plant expansion (TFP/Flessner)
Volkswagen plans to invest another $600 million in its Chattanooga assembly plant and hire another 2,000 workers to start making a sports utility vehicle by the end of 2016. More than a third of that investment will initially come from state and local governments who agreed to pump more than $230 million of upfront tax dollars into the project to woo VW into expanding in Chattanooga rather than at its other major North American plant in Puebla, Mexico where labor costs are far lower.
New incentives planned for VW expansion (Nooga)
Governments in Tennessee, Hamilton County and Chattanooga are planning a new round of public incentives in conjunction with Volkswagen’s recently announced expansion. The state is providing a $165.8 million grant for site prep and a $12 million grant for training new employees, according to a news release. As part of the incentive package, the company has agreed to waive its right to claim other tax credits. Hamilton County and Chattanooga have an existing payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, agreement with the company.
Volkswagen: A Give And Take Proposition For Tennessee (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)
The state of Tennessee is providing a $165.8 million grant for costs associated with site development and preparation, infrastructure, production equipment acquisition and installation, and facility construction. In addition, the state will provide a $12 million grant for training new employees. As part of the incentive package, Volkswagen Group of America has agreed to waive its right to claim certain statutorily available tax credits directly related to the expansion. Local incentives are not mentioned, and it’s not clear if these are all of the state incentives or not.
UAW Congratulates Volkswagen And Employees (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)
Last week the UAW announced the opening of a new local union office to continue efforts for the union to represent Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga. Volkswagen officials said however there is no formal agreement with the UAW. Monday Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW, issued the following statement responding to Volkswagen’s announcement to add a new product line in Chattanooga: “The UAW congratulates Volkswagen employees, the company, and the citizens of Chattanooga and Tennessee on the addition of a new product line. This announcement is a major vote of confidence in the Volkswagen workforce and the State of Tennessee, and it underscores the company’s consensus with the UAW to secure high-quality jobs for the future.”
Mack Hatcher ribbon-cutting set for Wednesday (Tennessean/Walters)
Two months after road crews completed their work, Gov. Bill Haslam will join state Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer and officially open the newly widened Mack Hatcher Parkway. Haslam and Schroer, along with various state and local leaders, will hold a brief ceremony at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday at the intersection of the Mack Hatcher Parkway and Cool Springs Boulevard to commemorate the completion of the road, according to a news release. Crews began work in 2012 on the $23.4 million project, widening a nearly 3-mile portion of the parkway from two to four lanes.
Haslam praises federal health reform initiative (Tennessean/Wilemon)
Gov. Bill Haslam is praising a new $100 million initiative by the federal government to help states improve their Medicaid programs. The Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program seeks to jump start new models of care delivery and payment, help states set up real-time analytics, improve quality measures and spur state-to-state learning. The program was developed with input from the National Governor’s Health Care Sustainability Task Force.
States Get a $100 Million Fund to Advance Medicaid Reform (Governing)
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced the formation of a $100 million technical assistance fund to help states develop and refine reforms to their Medicaid programs. The fund is the latest among efforts from the Affordable Care Act to make the U.S. health care system more efficient by bankrolling initiatives to begin paying for it differently. That generally means a move away from paying doctors an individual fee for every service and encouraging them to take on more financial risk for their performance or to agree to earn money based on outcomes.
TennCare files defiant response to federal official (Tennessean/Wilemon)
Although TennCare Director Darin Gordon blamed a federal website for the hurdles Tennesseans face applying for Medicaid, the agency will take some correction actions demanded by a federal official. The state agency will enable hospitals to temporarily enroll pregnant women in Medicaid. It will take actions to keep newborns and children who qualify for coverage from falling through the cracks. And TennCare will hire a consulting firm to analyze the problems with its behind-schedule $35.7 million computer system. However, it will not provide face-to-face help for people trying to apply for coverage through the state Medicaid system and will, instead, continue sending people to the federal Health Insurance Marketplace to do that.
Haslam admin blasts federal criticism of TennCare, health care law (TFP/Sher)
A sometimes-defiant Haslam administration fired off its response Monday to criticisms from the Obama administration over Tennessee’s implementation of rules and programs intended to facilitate enrollment of low-income residents under the federal health care law. In a letter to Cindy Mann, director of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, TennCare Director Darin Gordon took issue with CMS’ assertions. The agency said in a June 27 letter the state is not in compliance with six of its seven main “critical success factors” with regard to a streamlined eligibility and enrollment processes for Medicaid.
TennCare director strikes back at federal criticism of program (TFP/Sher)
A defiant Haslam administration late this afternoon fired off its response to federal officials over their criticism of Tennessee’s implementation of eligibility and enrollment rules for the state-operated Medicaid program and Children’s Health Insurance Program under the federal health law. In a 16-page letter to Cindy Mann, director of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services, TennCare Director Darin Gordon took issue with CMS’ assertions the state is not in compliance with most of its obligations with regard to streamlined eligiblity and enrollment processes.
TennCare director submits plan to correct deficiencies (Commercial Appeal/Locker)
Tennessee’s TennCare director submitted a plan late Monday to correct deficiencies in the state’s TennCare application process detailed by federal officials last month, but the state official also noted that more people enrolled in TennCare so far this year, 126,300, than at any time since the program was established in 1994. Federal Medicaid Director Cindy Mann wrote state officials June 27 to express concern about Tennessee’s ability to enroll eligible individuals into Medicaid under the new requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act.
Lack of ‘human touch’ hurting TennCare accessibility (News-Sentinel/Nelson)
Though open enrollment for insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplace ended in April, there are a few categories of uninsured people Cherokee Health Systems can still help through the federal healthcare.gov website. Among them are people eligible for Medicaid — TennCare. Cherokee’s certified assisters will have their hands full when open enrollment begins again in October, but between now and then, they’re providing a “human touch” to help people apply for TennCare. That became harder to find after the state began relying on the federal ACA website, instead of its own system, to determine TennCare eligibility.
New option emerges for Cordell Hull, Central Services (Tennessean/Ward)
A new least costly scenario has emerged under which the Cordell Hull Building could be renovated and Central Services torn down as the state weighs its options for those office buildings. The new option would cost around $95 million and features a new parking garage with roughly 150 spaces where the Central Services building sits now, said Bob Oglesby, commissioner of the state’s Department of General Services, on Monday. Oglesby’s agency plans to present the new option to the State Building Commission on Aug. 14.
Using meth while pregnant: That’s assault in Tennessee (WRCB-TV Chattanooga)
The first arrest applying a new Tennessee law that charges a woman with assault for taking illegal drugs while pregnant has sparked backlash from civil rights groups. Mallory Loyola, 26, was arrested Tuesday, two days after giving birth to a baby girl, because she and her newborn tested positive for methamphetamine, Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens said. “A woman may be prosecuted for assault for the illegal use of a narcotic drug while pregnant, if her child is born addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug,” reads a law passed on July 1.
13 Tennessee road projects face delay if funds cut (Tennessean/Walters)
The future of 13 Tennessee road-widening projects totaling more than $200 million hangs in the balance as federal funds for the nation’s highways could wither in August. Unless Congress intervenes with a federal allocation to refresh the Highway Trust Fund, federal transportation leaders will start cutting money sent to state agencies by Aug. 1, triggering cutbacks in states’ road projects. In Tennessee, TDOT Commissioner John Schroer has set a list of 13 road projects the agency originally planned to launch in fiscal year 2014 but is now pushing back to 2015 because of the highway funding crisis.
Long awaited work project begins at Lakeland/Canada Road at I-40 (CA/Garlington)
Construction of a new $28.2 million interchange at Lakeland’s Canada Road exit begins Tuesday when one lane of Interstate 40 westbound will be shut down from 9 p.m. Tuesday until 6 a.m. Wednesday. The closure affects a half-mile stretch along I-40. Any future lane closures also will be done at night as well for safety reasons. Lakeland commuters, residents and business owners peppered transportation and construction officials last week with a host of questions during a public information session about the much-anticipated new interchange.
Hybrid cars considered exception to HOV lane requirements (WKRN-TV Nashville)
State highways throughout the country, even here in Middle Tennessee, are notorious for being crowded and congested, particularly during peak hours. Measures such as high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes were put in place to help reduce traffic, and even reduce emissions. In the state of Tennessee, many know the requirement to drive in these lanes is that a car must have at least two people inside. “That lane always moves faster. I Iike it,” said motorist Stanton Norfleet. Some, however, have come to realize that there are two exceptions: motorcycles and hybrid vehicles.
Deaths rates on tri-state rural roads among nation’s highest (TFP/Benton)
A study of America’s non-interstate rural roads ranks Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama among the top 15 states for fatal accidents and suggests a major overhaul of the states’ rural transportation systems. The connecting routes in rural Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama — and other states — sometimes are winding, often shoulderless stretches of blacktop lacking modern safety features such as turn lanes, highly reflective pavement markings and rumble strips at the centerline and edges of the road, according to the study, Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland.
Commissioner Uses State Troopers As Chauffeurs (WTVF-TV Nashville)
A NewsChannel 5 hidden-camera investigation discovered Tennessee state troopers being used as chauffeurs for their boss, Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons. That investigation now has one critic asking whether taxpayers are being taken for a ride. But state officials are making no apologies for how they’ve spent your money. “Commissioner Gibbons’ time is as valuable as anyone in the Department of Safety and Homeland Security,” said Col. Tracy Trott, head of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Picked for the job more than three years ago, Gibbons — a former Shelby County DA — decided to commute between his home in Memphis and his office in Nashville, sometimes using those sworn law enforcement officers as chauffeurs.
DCS investigating teen’s hanging at youth correction center (N-S/Lakin)
Brandon Greene left suicide watch last week. A guard found him hanging in his cell Sunday. Greene, a 16-year-old inmate three days off suicide watch, died Monday after hanging himself with a shirt at the Mountain View Youth Development Center in Dandridge. The state Department of Children’s Services and his family want to know why. “I definitely think this could have been avoided,” said Christina Greene, his mother. “When they took that child’s freedom from him, they took his life.” The boy had been in the custody of the DCS since January after his arrest in a burglary and vandalism at Johnson County High School in Mountain City, Tenn., his mother said.
Kingston receives $150,000 grant to help June tornado victims (WATE-TV Knox)
Help is on the way nearly one month later for tornado victims in Roane County. The National Weather Service says an EF0 tornado hit just east of Kingston near Third Street on June 10. The city received exciting news Monday that a grant will help offset the cost of repairs for homeowners. Right after the storm hit, city leaders say they reached out to Tennessee Housing Development Agency to come look at the damage and see if there was a way to help get tornado victims back on their feet. Twisted trees, snapped power poles and a ladder are still propped against Joan Clark’s home, which are all reminders of what happened back in June.
TBI investigating Henri Brooks’ residency (WREG-TV Memphis)
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating whether Henri Brooks lives in the district she represents. Josh Devine with the TBI told us, “As with any TBI investigation, we will collect evidence, conduct interviews and follow all leads as we work to get to the bottom of what – if anything – may have happened criminally. We will turn our findings over to District Attorney General Garry Brown once our investigation is complete.” An investigation by the Shelby County attorney found Brooks did not live in the address she has listed on several documents for district 2.
TBI Investigating Henri Brooks Residency (WHBQ-TV Memphis)
FOX13 News has learned Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks is now under the state microscope as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has opened up an inquiry into her residency. The request from District Attorney General Garry Brown, special prosecutor in Brooks’ case, was sent Monday, according to the TBI. The TBI said they will conduct interviews and follow up on leads during the investigation; they do not have specifics available at this time because they say the investigation is brand new.
Former state director: Reports of drugs in home cost her job (WSMV-TV Nashville)
The former director of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission said in an exclusive interview with the Channel 4 I-Team that reports of drugs found in her home cost her the state job. Danielle Elks hasn’t commented on the controversy since the Channel 4 I-Team first exposed police reports of reported marijuana found in her home in 2011. Elks spoke at length about the reported drugs, the TBI investigations that followed and how she at first blamed her deceased husband for the loss of her job. Elks was married to the keyboardist in the Charlie Daniels Band, “Taz” DiGregorio.
New GOP mailing campaign draws response from justices (N-S/Humphrey)
A national Republican organization joined in targeting three state Supreme Court justices as “left wing” and “liberal” Monday while the spokeswoman of another Washington group disputed any comparison between the Republican group and its owns efforts on behalf of non-partisan judicial elections. Justices Cornelia Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade, meanwhile, have filed financial disclosures reporting they collectively had $671,131 in campaign cash on hand as of July 1 to spend defending themselves prior to the Aug. 7 retention election.
Carr filing indicates payment was income from loan (Tennessean/Sisk)
State Rep. Joe Carr’s campaign has indicated that a questioned payment from a Nashville pharmacy was really income off a loan. Carr has updated his first quarter disclosure to the Federal Election Commission to show that his campaign lent $200,000 to Life Watch Pharmacy, for which it was paid $9,564.54, presumably in interest. The FEC questioned the contribution in a letter sent June 2, noting that because Life Watch is a limited liability corporation, the contribution might violate campaign finance rules.
Shipley leads Hulsey in 2nd House District race fundraising (Times-News)
Incumbent GOP state Rep. Tony Shipley has a huge fundraising advantage over Republican Primary challenger Bud Hulsey with help from political action committees, according to second quarter disclosures filed with the state. The two are vying for Tennessee’s 2nd House District seat. PACs generated about $14,000 of the $32,275 Shipley raised during the quarter. Shipley, who is seeking a fourth two-year term, spent $16,712 and reported having $45,180 cash on hand at the end of the quarter.
‘Blue Flu,’ ‘Red Rash’ May Have Run Their Courses (WHBQ-TV Memphis)
Both the Memphis Police “Blue Flu” and Memphis Fire “Red Rash” mass sickouts might have run their respective courses. Both departments have seen near record sick calls since the city budget was passed by council June 17. The budget raised health insurance rates for employees and retirees. According to Memphis Police, 252 officers called in sick Monday, down by almost half from last week’s high of 557 sick calls. The same can be said for the fire department as only 52 firefighters called out sick on Monday.
Officials Respond To Decline In Blue Flue And Red Rash (WMLT-TV Memphis)
Memphis public safety officials issued the following statements regarding the volume of staff calling in sick: Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong: “Our numbers continue to dwindle. We currently show 321 officers off sick. Being this is the case, I have lifted the days off and benefit leave restrictions as we are moving into a normal mode of operation. My continued thanks to Sheriff Bill Oldham and his officers for their assistance and support. I especially would like to thank those MPD officers who chose to stay on the job during these last days.”
Memphis Firefighters leaving the department (WREG-TV Memphis)
This Tuesday, 24 Memphis firefighters will retire from the Memphis Fire Department. Their retirements were planned, but their departure hints at another problem. The revolving doors at the Memphis Fire Department may be a bit one-sided. The Firefighters Union tells us with 24 firefighters set for quarterly retirement this week, that will bring the total number of retirees to 57 so far this year, out of a department of 15-hundred. The union says only 33 retired all of last year. The union admits you can’t read a lot into when someone retires, since it is based on the city’s Drop Program, but as other firefighters resign, including 5 paramedics in the last 2 weeks, it speaks volumes.
Jim Tracy plays abortion card in race with DesJarlais (Tennessean/Sisk)
State Sen. Jim Tracy has begun to hit U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais over his personal history with abortion, posting a new web page and sending out a mailer to voters just before the start of early voting. Tracy, R-Shelbyville, says the incumbent congressman has been ineffective because his reputation has been damaged by disclosures contained in divorce filings released two years ago. Those disclosures — the full details of which did not become public until after DesJarlais had been re-elected — include statements that he supported two abortions by his former wife prior to their marriage and had affairs with patients before the divorce was finalized in 2001.
Highway Fund’s Long-Term Fix Remains Miles Away (Wall Street Journal)
The nation’s governors are incredulous. Road builders are apoplectic. President Barack Obama and members of his administration are puzzled. But passing a large-scale package to finance construction and maintenance of transportation projects has proved increasingly difficult for Congress in recent years, even though it means bringing money to every state. The latest multiyear package passed in 2012 and spanned just two years—coming together only after Congress had fashioned more than 10 patches to temporarily top off the Highway Trust Fund. This year is no different: Congress is headed toward approving a 10-month patch, starting with a vote Tuesday in the House and later this month in the Senate, to shore up the fund, which is expected to be depleted next month.
To Encourage Saving, Some States Turn to Prizes (Stateline)
Nearly a dozen states believe they’ve found a way to encourage people to save more money—and have fun doing it. And the idea costs not a dime in state funds. Four states—Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina and Washington—now allow credit unions to offer cash prizes as an incentive to encourage people to save more. Five other states—Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Maryland and Rhode Island—have enacted laws clearing the way for prize-linked savings, and in New York a bill is awaiting Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature. Similar measures were introduced in Arkansas last year and in Oregon this year.
Pilot Flying J to pay $92M fine (Associated Press)
The truck-stop company owned by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has agreed to pay a $92 million penalty for cheating customers out of promised rebates and discounts, authorities announced Monday. In an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Pilot Flying J has accepted responsibility for the criminal conduct of its employees, ten of whom have pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme. For its part, the government has agreed not to prosecute the nation’s largest diesel retailer as long as Pilot abides by the agreement.
Melinda Gates, Frist call for global focus on maternal, child health (TN/Wadhwani)
Philanthropist Melinda Gates said she never imagined growing up in a devout Catholic household in Dallas that she would one day lead a global effort to promote family planning and contraceptives in the developing world. “I wrestled with my faith,” said Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaking in front of a Belmont University audience. “I absolutely needed to talk with my parents, my children. I wrestled with my own use of contraception, about which I am very public.” But it was ultimately her faith — including the Catholic Church’s longstanding commitment to aiding people in poverty — and being a firsthand witness to the hardships of mothers as she traveled in Africa and Asia with her then-fiance Bill Gates that led her to join an effort to address the need for women to decide when and whether to have children.
Morristown-based Wellco Enterprises will close (News-Sentinel/Marcum)
Wellco Enterprises, a Morristown company that produces footwear for the military, will cease operations over the course of July, eliminating 46 jobs. Wellco, which has a plant at 5968 Commerce Street in Morristown, will wind down operations between Tuesday and July 26, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Company officials could not be reached for comment, but Marshall Ramsey, president of the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce, said Monday that Wellco officials told him that business with the federal government has been drying up as the military winds down its involvement in Afghanistan.
SCS Unveils New Academic Structure For 2014-15 (WHBQ-TV Memphis)
Shelby County Schools will kick-off the 2014-2015 school year with an overhaul of the district’s Academic Department in order to increase student achievement. The new structure includes the realignment of upper level staff, the addition of more direct support staff for schools and the advice of one of the top academic leaders in the nation, Dr. Carol Johnson. Based on feedback from school principals, Instructional Leadership Directors (ILDs), or principal coaches, have been instrumental in raising the bar in teaching and leadership instruction.
SCS has new plan to get kids into college or trade schools (WREG-TV Memphis)
By the year 2025, the Shelby County School system 80/90/100 plan aims to get 80% of Shelby County Schools students’ career and college ready. The hope is to have 90% of students to graduate from high school and 100% of students who do graduate enrolled in college or trade school. That’s the year current first graders will graduate. Mary Earhart-Brown is Manager of Family and Community Involvement for the School District.
Pinkston to Register: collaboration with charters ‘overdue’ (Tennessean/Garrison)
Will Pinkston, who’s unleashed a barrage of criticism toward Director of Schools Jesse Register in recent weeks, says the superintendent’s unexpected call for collaborative talks with charter schools is “overdue” and that several policy areas should be explored. The outspoken Pinkston seemed to be a target when Register, in an unexpected speech at the Metro Council last week, said “enough is enough” with an “us versus them” mentality over charters. “This is not some sort of game where it’s OK to judge ‘winning or losing’ by which press release or pithy statement gets printed in the newspaper or gets highlighted on the nightly news, or gets the most play on social media,” said Register, winning support from charter fans and the business community.
Stepping up: Scott implements first step increase for teachers in six years (T-N)
Despite having to trim an unexpected $300,000 from its budget, the Scott County School Board was recently able to bring back all non-tenured teachers while at the same time implementing a salary increase and hiring new teachers. The step increase marks the first time in six years the school board has had the funding to reinstate its salary scale. The 2014-15 budget also marks the first time since at least 2009 the board has been able to forgo its attrition policy and hire teachers to fill spaces in nonessential positions. Scott County Schools Superintendent John Ferguson said the school system had already approved its budget for the new fiscal year when the General Assembly finally approved the state budget June 18.
Massachusetts: Patrick seeks more power to cut budget (Boston Globe)
Governor Deval Patrick on Friday made an unusual request to the Legislature for greater budget-cutting powers in the closing months of his time in office, saying he needs to be able to act more swiftly to manage costs in the event of an unforeseen emergency. The request — unveiled as the governor also signed into law a $36.5 billion annual state budget and issued $16.1 million in vetoes — took lawmakers by surprise and sparked alarm. “This sends up a red flag,” said Representative Patricia Haddad, the third-ranking lawmaker in the House. “Does he know something that he’s not sharing with the rest of us, that there is some economic or financial emergency on the horizon?”
Columnist: VW’s big announcement and the UAW’s big-time desperation (Nooga)
I would like to thank Volkswagen for (finally and officially) choosing Chattanooga as the site to build its new SUV. The automaker will be investing $600 million here, as well as creating more than 2,000 jobs related to the SUV and a new research and development center. I’d like to offer my congratulations to the workers at the Chattanooga VW plant, whose outstanding work in producing the Passat was a key factor in the company’s decision to add another production line here. I’d also like to offer my congratulations to the very, very desperate United Auto Workers on forming an informal, completely voluntary and sort of pretend local union at VW just days before the big announcement. This is a really great opportunity. For them.
Editorial: Accord needed in funding tiff between city, Shelby County Schools (CA)
It is time for the city of Memphis to reach a reasonable settlement in bringing a resolution to a disputed $57 million judgment the city owes Shelby County Schools. Disputed is the operative word here because, despite a court ruling that Memphis owes the money, the city has filed a counterclaim saying the school district owes Memphis money. All this is back in the news because SCS Supt. Dorsey Hopson recently sent a letter to Mayor A C Wharton, stating the school system has offered on multiple occasions to work out a payment plan. The letter noted that there has been “no meaningful dialogue in response to our multiple offers to resolve these matters.”