This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee grants to be revealed Monday (Associated Press)
Gov. Bill Haslam will be joined by local and state officials Monday to make a series of grant announcements, his office said in a news release. The grants involve the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Department of Agriculture, the release stated, but no specifics were provided. The announcement is set for 1:15 p.m. CDT Monday at Winchester City Hall, 7 High St. Accompanying Haslam will be Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma; Rep. David Alexander, R-Winchester; Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg; and Tullahoma Mayor Terry Harrell.
More to come for Volkswagen in Chattanooga? (Times Free-Press/Pare)
Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant lapped its Mexican competition to land a new sport utility vehicle, but the company’s operations south of the border are what officials here dream about for the Tennessee factory. Hamilton County officials are upbeat about the chances that the Chattanooga factory will see growth even above the SUV. The plant will retool to hold a new way of making vehicles that will allow the assembly of more and different models, which some believe will help drive the factory toward the high production levels of VW in Mexico. As significant as VW’s investments and growth in Chattanooga have been, the numbers across the board are dwarfed by the company’s Puebla, Mexico, operation.
Growing problem of drug-addicted babies gets officials’ attention (Herald-Courier)
The umbilical cord carries oxygen and other nutrients to an unborn baby during pregnancy. If the mother is drug-dependent, the cord acts just like a syringe, injecting the illegal substance into the child, according to state health officials In some cases, the mother and baby both crave the drug, but a snip of the cord suddenly cuts off the infant’s supply, sending it into painful detoxification and an uncertain future. And as of three months ago, a blood draw and positive drug test revealing the illicit exposure during gestation can result in the mother being charged with a crime in Tennessee.
Prescription drug drop boxes part of Prescription For Success campaign (H-C)
It has been about a month and a half since Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled his Prescription for Success plan to help curb prescription drug abuse in Tennessee. Some of the recommendations in the plan require additional legislation, while some required regulation. There were also some recommendations in the plan that required neither. This is the fourth story in a seven-story series in the Herald-Citizen, one focusing on one of the plan’s seven goals. The fourth goal in the Prescription For Success plan is to increase the access to drug disposal outlets in Tennessee.
Intervention, enrichment blocks coming to Tennessee schools (Tenn/Garrison)
From school to school, it will take on different names — Power Hours, Tiger Time or perhaps My Time. Those terms refer to new daily intervention periods for students, as well as enrichment time in some districts, that are coming to Tennessee elementary schools this year as the state moves to a new system to identify and address weaknesses as early as kindergarten. Educators call this “personalized learning time,” and it’s central to a new state policy known as Response to Instruction and Intervention, or RTI2, which went into effect this month.
Ex-state worker indicted in food stamp fraud case (Tennessean/Gonzalez)
Authorities say they’ve snared a former state employee and an accomplice in a far-reaching food stamps fraud operation run out of a state office in Lebanon. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said ten indictments have come down against Tracey Deshaye Timbs, 43, of Smith County, and six charges against Michael Nichols, 31, of Gallatin. A three-month TBI investigation spun out of concerns within the Department of Human Services, which oversees food stamps — officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. DHS learned of fraudulent food stamp accounts being created and sold of the Lebanon office on Legends Drive, where Timbs worked as an eligibility counselor, according to the TBI.
Campfield, Briggs clash over residency (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Humphrey)
State Sen. Stacey Campfield contends that utility bills indicate Richard Briggs does not really live at the Farragut apartment that Briggs, his Republican primary opponent, has listed as his residence on election documents, potentially violating state law. Briggs, a heart surgeon and Knox County commissioner, said Campfield’s contention is “absolutely false,” while conceding the utility bills could present a confusing picture. Looking at his water bills during an interview Saturday, Briggs said they do seem low, even considering limited use of water at the apartment. Campfield said his campaign staff has conducted some research and “either Dr. Briggs and his wife haven’t taken a shower or flushed a toilet in several months or they don’t live at that apartment.”
Tennessee in quandary amid tighter abortion regulations (Tennessean/Wadhwani)
Mae learned she was pregnant a week after the nearest abortion clinic within a 100-mile radius had closed. The 27-year-old Huntsville, Ala., warehouse packager said she knew she did not want to have a child, and initially she panicked when she learned the city’s only abortion clinic had shut down June 30 after state lawmakers passed new regulations. Alabama’s next closest clinic, in Tuscaloosa, was a 300-mile round trip away, costing gas money she did not have, and she’d have to go twice to comply with a mandatory 48-hour waiting period. She briefly considered homemade abortifacients.
Pension figures show impact of choosing non-spouse beneficiaries (NS/Hernandez)
Pat Summitt, retired women’s basketball coach for the University of Tennessee, and her son could earn $18.5 million throughout their lives from the state’s pension system. From today forward, Summitt and 2,860 other Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System retirees who chose non-spouse beneficiaries could draw almost $1 billion, assuming they live until age 80, according to a News Sentinel data analysis. Summitt had the right within the system to designate Tyler Summitt, her only child, to receive her benefits once she dies. Today, she receives almost $15,000 a month, or more than $177,000 a year, figures show.
Editorial: Partisan politics should be kept out of judicial branch (News-Sentinel)
Outside the legal profession, few Tennesseans closely follow the workings of the state Supreme Court. That is exactly what the partisan forces that want three justices knocked off the bench are counting on. And they are spending vast sums of money in a shameful effort to turn uninformed voters into misinformed voters. Partisan politics is impossible to completely eradicate from the judiciary, but it can and should be minimized to the point of irrelevancy. Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Cornelia “Connie” Clark and Sharon Lee are up for a retention vote this year.
Editorial: Huffman draws wide opposition (Daily News Journal)
Election campaigns this summer are stirring comments about many political issues, but most schools are on vacation and the state Legislature is not in session, so this is a good time to reflect on the quality of state education. Gov. Bill Haslam, who is among those seeking re-election, has emphasized the need to improve performance of students on standardized tests and the general quality of education in the state. The governor at times has been at odds with his fellow Republicans in the Legislature on how to accomplish these goals. Haslam’s plans for implementing a voucher system in the state has failed during two legislative sessions because some GOP legislators did not think the governor’s plan would cover enough students in the state.
Tom Humphrey: Incumbents have easier time with reaching voters (News-Sentinel)
The power of incumbency may not be as great as in bygone days, but it is still substantial in providing that threshold ingredient of a successful election campaign — name recognition. In a statewide race, this is typically a very big thing. In the ongoing campaign for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate, for example, virtually everyone who votes knows who Lamar Alexander is. His challengers must spend a lot of time, money and effort just to get their names before voters. Alexander, as a sitting senator, has a taxpayer-funded staff daily working with citizens in one way or another and, of course, a PR team churning out news releases.
Editorial; Lack of urgency on VA problems is obscene (Jackson Sun)
We were angered last week when we read this statement from Acting Veterans Administration Secretary Sloan Gibson: “We have serious problems.” Really? After all that has come to light in recent months, that’s the analysis we get? Such a statement is an insult to veterans and the American people. No kidding, we have serious problems. We’ve known that for a long time, yet no one is able to fix them. That is not only wrong, it’s immoral, and it’s downright obscene. “Serious problems” are not new at the VA. They go back decades. Remember the deplorable conditions those wounded in the Vietnam War had to endure in VA hospitals? No doubt soldiers from wars earlier than that were abused by the system, too.