This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Governor delivers grants for streetscape project, veterans cemetery (C. Appeal)
Gov. Bill Haslam, who’s traveling the state awarding grants for local projects while early voting is under way, will announce another streetscape project at the University of Memphis and speak to a joint meeting of two suburban chambers of commerce on Wednesday. The governor will speak outside the U of M Crews Center for Entrepreneurship on Walker Avenue at 11 a.m. where he’s expected to award up to $575,000 for the second phase of the Walker Avenue Streetscape project, a five-year plan to beautify and improve traffic and pedestrian flow on the southern edge of the campus.
Haslam Announces More Than $730K in Grants for Overton Co (TN Report)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced three grants totaling more than $730,000 to enhance the public square and create a new two-acre park in Livingston and to improve the Hanging Limb Recreation Center in Overton County. “We want Tennessee to continue to be the very best place to live, work and raise a family, and projects like these are key to making that a reality,” Haslam said. “Making downtown areas more inviting and accessible and enhancing our parks and recreation areas improve the lives of Tennesseans.” A $450,953 transportation alternative grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will fund the Public Square Enhancements Project located near the historic Overton County Courthouse in downtown Livingston.
Beretta: Gun law forcing move out of Maryland (Associated Press)
Beretta U.S.A. announced Tuesday that company concerns over a strict gun-control law enacted in Maryland last year have made it necessary to move its weapons making out of the state to Tennessee. The well-known gun maker said it will move to a new production facility it is building in the Nashville suburb of Gallatin that is set to open in mid-2015…. The company anticipates the plant in more gun-friendly Tennessee will involve a $45 million investment in building and equipment and employ about 300 people during the next five years. Beretta said it has no plans to relocate its office, administrative and executive support functions from Accokeek, Maryland.
Italian Gun-Maker Moves All Production To Tennessee (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
Gun-maker Beretta will be moving all of its manufacturing to Tennessee. Earlier this year, the Italian company announced plans to open a research and development facility and new production lines in Gallatin. Now, the company says it will move the Maryland production lines “in their entirety to the new Tennessee facility.” Beretta had threatened to exit Maryland after the state passed a new gun-control law. James Fenton, executive director of the Gallatin’s Economic Development Agency, says the gun maker was worried some of its products would be confiscated under Maryland law.
‘Girl Scout royalty’ Milly Ellis honored (Tullahoma News)
At age 104, Mildred “Milly” Ellis was recognized Monday as the “oldest living Girl Scout” in Tennessee, and possibly the nation as a whole, at the second annual “Coffee County Friends of Girls Scouting” luncheon at Lakewood Golf and Country Club. The event featured Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam, Mayor Lane Curlee and several executives of the Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee. “We congratulate and salute you for your service to the Girl Scouts,” Haslam said. “For 102 years, the Girl Scouts have been reaching into girls’ lives, changing their paths and expectations in ways that government and education alone cannot.”
The Political Landscape Of Common Core (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)
“I have been fairly strong in my comments about how critical it is to not back up on Common core,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam supports Common Core and the Tennessee Legislature passed it in 2010. This year, the State Senate voted to delay the testing component of the Common Core, which makes Tennessee one of several states now questioning the program it embraced just four years ago. So where did Common Core come from and when did it become a hot potato? National news reports say Common Core originated with the National Governor’s Association, and it’s chairwoman at the time Janet Napolitano.
Tenn Invests More Tax Dollars Than Ever Before in Tourism Advertising (WPLN)
The state’s tourism department is pumping more taxpayer money than ever before into luring new visitors. A Kansas City advertising agency this month rolled out the “Made in Tennessee” campaign, coming after Tennessee officials granted the company a $60-million contract. The marketing agency VML, which has opened a Nashville office, produced two 30-second TV commercials promoting getting outdoors in Tennessee, with dramatic waterfalls, green rolling hills and horseback-riding amid a forest scene. The ads will play in about a dozen markets around the country.
Haslam Hasn’t Blocked Same-Sex N. Guard Benefits, But Nobody’s Applied (WPLN)
The federal government says National Guardsmen are now able to receive benefits for their same-sex partners. Some states are attempting to block this Pentagon-issued directive by not processing applications. When asked, Governor Bill Haslam said he has yet to be faced with that decision. “I haven’t. I actually don’t know of one, of a Tennessee Guardsmen that has made the application,” Haslam said The Tennessee state guard is a reserve force of the US Army that falls directly under the orders of the governor. Haslam said when the time comes would like to consult lawyers and guardsmen before making any official decisions.
‘Right’ to party: Eldridge to host GOP outdoor affair (Johnson City Press)
About 500 people are expected to attend a Friday night Republican hoedown at Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge’s spread in Jonesborough. Tennessee’s U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, Gov. Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey will be on hand at “Farm, Fiddle and Friends,” a meet-and-greet and cookout at Eldridge’s farm, which includes a roomy barn where the Jonesborough Novelty Band will entertain the crowd. Eldridge said he used his 9,000-square-foot barn for a similar event four years ago, inviting Haslam and his wife Crissy.
Knox County librarian using star-power to inspire kids to read (WATE-TV Knox)
Ms. Henderson is known as the book whisperer amongst her colleagues. “I love books. I love to read, I love to talk about books,” Viktoria Henderson said with smile. The librarian at Sarah Moore Greene Elementary has an infectious smile and an even more infectious passion for reading. It’s her goal to spread that joy to her students. “I love when my students come to me and they say ‘Mrs. Henderson I found the best book,’ or ‘I just read this, have you ever read this?’ To see that spark and that excitement makes me excited,” she said.
State officials discuss standardized testing (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
A Knox County School board member and the State Board of Education hosted a forum Tuesday night to discuss the testing every Knox County student must take. Mike McMillen said the Board has heard a lot of questions and concerns about standardized testing from parents and teachers. Deputy Commissioner of the Tennessee Board of Education, Kathleen Airhart, spoke with teachers and parents about what to expect this year on Tuesday. Airhart said even though teachers are operating under Common Core standards, students will take the TCAPs again this year with the exception of social studies. The new social studies standards were passed by the Board of Education in July 2013.
Retired Republican chief justice defends three Supreme Court justices (CA/Locker)
A retired chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, Republican Mickey Barker of Chattanooga, appears in a new statewide TV ad in defense of three current justices who are the targets of an intensive ouster campaign by Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and three conservative GOP-affiliated groups. The 30-second ad began airing Monday with Barker telling viewers, “Although I’m a Republican, politics has no place in our courts. But now, out-of-state special interests are trying to take over our Supreme Court. I know Justices Clark, Lee and Wade and they have served with distinction upholding our constitution, protecting individual rights and upholding nearly 90 percent of death sentences.
TN Supreme Court Judge Clark asks for retention (Leaf Chronicle)
The Aug. 7 election ballot is long, with hotly-contested county government offices, high-profile local judgeships, a district attorney’s race and a state primary, but two key names from the state-level judiciary circle are urging potentially-weary voters not to ignore the 23 judicial retention questions at the bottom of the ballot. The questions are whether to retain, or replace, state-appointed judges in the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, and one of those Supreme Court judges still on the bench, Connie Clark, whose name appears on the August ballot, told the Downtown Kiwanis Club Tuesday these questions are vital to Tennessee’s judicial process.
Three Democrats wage spirited battle in House 51 race (Tennessean/Cass)
Jennifer Buck Wallace has spent the summer carrying more than just campaign stickers and palm cards while running for a seat in the General Assembly. Wallace, 39, and her husband, Billy, are expecting their first child Aug. 25, just 18 days after the Democratic primary she’s trying to win in House District 51. Wallace, who is competing with Bill Beck and Stephen Fotopulos, said campaigning while eight months pregnant has given her extra empathy for some of the women she hopes to represent, women who juggle pregnancy or motherhood with difficult jobs — and often without the kind of support system she enjoys.
New tool lets Tennessee parents see daycare violation records (WATE-TV Knox)
A new tool is helping parents keep track of their children’s daycare. Starting this month, the State of Tennessee is putting daycare inspection reports online. The state already uses a three-star rating system for daycare centers. This new link shows specific violations for anyone to examine. New mom Sara Holladay wanted to know which daycare she should send her kids to, so she went online to find out. “I think the more information is better. When you’re leaving your children somewhere you want to make sure it’s a top notch facility,” Holladay said. That research led her to the Children’s Center of Knoxville.
Scott DesJarlais optimistic about overturning health care law (Tennessean/Barton)
For Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Tuesday ruling from a federal appeals court ratified an argument he first made almost three years ago: The specific wording of President Barack Obama’s health care law prevents it from applying to states like Tennessee. But a ruling from a second federal appeals court, also Tuesday, countered DesJarlais’ position. The issue may yet go to the Supreme Court, in what would become the most significant case affecting the Affordable Care Act since the June 2012 decision that upheld the law’s mandate on individuals to purchase health insurance.
Tax subsidies helped 300,000 in area get health insurance (TFP/Harrison, Sher)
More than 120,000 Tennesseans who bought health insurance plans off the new federal marketplace this year — 80 percent of those who bought such plans — made the purchase with the help of federal tax credits. Nearly 99,000 Georgians bought plans that included subsidies, as did 83,000 Alabamians who selected plans off the federal marketplace. Now, as the long-term validity of those subsidies is called into question by dueling federal court rulings issued Tuesday, health experts said the impact on states like Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama will remain unclear until a higher resolution is reached — likely through the Supreme Court.
New Questions on Health Law as Rulings on Subsidies Differ (New York Times)
Two federal appeals court panels issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on whether the government could subsidize health insurance premiums for millions of Americans, raising yet more questions about the future of the health care law four years after it was signed by President Obama. The contradictory rulings will apparently have no immediate impact on consumers. But they could inject uncertainty, confusion and turmoil into health insurance markets as the administration firms up plans for another open enrollment season starting in November.
Appeals Courts Issue Conflicting Rulings on Health-Law Subsidies (WSJ)
Two U.S. appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on whether consumers can get subsidies for health coverage bought on the Affordable Care Act’s federal exchange, escalating a legal battle that could complicate fall insurance enrollment and jeopardize tax credits for millions of Americans. In a blow to President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on a 2-1 vote, invalidated an Internal Revenue Service regulation that implemented a key piece of the 2010 health law. The regulation said subsidies for health insurance were available to qualifying middle- and low-income consumers whether they bought coverage on a state or federally run exchange.
Ruling Threatens Health Exchange Subsidies in 36 States (Governing)
A three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled Tuesday that the federal government can’t offer subsidies to help people pay for insurance in the 36 states that don’t run their own online marketplaces. The ruling, if left unchallenged, could make insurance unaffordable for many of the more than 8 million people who signed up for private coverage under the Affordable Care Act, some 87 percent of whom received subsidies to lower their premiums or cost-sharing. But the administration is almost certain to ask for a review of the decision “en banc,” which will bring on the full 11 judges with the court, seven of whom were appointed by Democrats.
Ingraham plugs Carr with Nashville rally (Tennessean/Sisk)
About 500 tea party activists gathered at a Nashville hotel Tuesday night for a rallying speech by conservative radio show host Laura Ingraham in support of Senate candidate Joe Carr. In a speech that seemed to tap into the audience’s deep-seated concerns over immigration and the pace of change in the country, Ingraham spoke for 45 minutes to a packed house at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel that attended a “Beat Lamar” rally for Carr. Comparing U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander to an old sweater, a hooked fish, beige wallpaper and a baseball player who has struck out, Ingraham urged listeners to believe Carr, a three-term state representative from Lascassas, can upset the incumbent senator in the Aug. 7 Republican primary.
Conservative radio host in Nashville to back Joe Carr over Alexander (TFP/Sher)
Conservative radio show host Laura Ingraham stormed into Nashville on Tuesday as she sought to give Joe Carr a major boost in his GOP primary fight with U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. “It’s time for bold colors. Abandon the pastels,” Ingraham said, referring to Alexander in an interview prior to a speech to Tennessee tea party groups. “We need fighters. Lamar’s had his time. He’s had a good run.” But she described Alexander these days as “kind of like an old sweater. He was really comfortable and sharp looking at one point, but now it just takes up room in your drawer.” On the other hand, she said, Carr is a “street fighter,” she said, adding he worked to combat illegal immigration as a representative in the state House.
Constituents Pack Millennium Maxwell House In Support Of Carr (WTVF-TV)
More than 700 constituents packed the Millennium Maxwell House Tuesday night in support of State Representative Joe Carr, as he hopes to pull off an upset in the Republican Primary. A rally, called Restore America, was held and featured radio host and political commentator Laura Ingraham campaigning for the Lascassas Republican. Carr hopes to defeat incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander in the Republican primary on August 7. The Tea Party challenger said he’s happy about the early voting turnout and is ready to hit the road to talk to more Tennesseans.
Future of Guard helicopters still in holding pattern (News-Sentinel/Lakin)
The fight to save National Guard helicopters in some states gained some altitude in Congress this month, but Tennessee could get left on the ground. The Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee last week approved a spending bill opposing Army plans to replace Apache helicopters used by those states with bigger Blackhawk helicopters and to scrap the Kiowa Warrior OH-58D helicopters used by the Tennessee National Guard. States have balked at the plan, saying the Blackhawks won’t work for the kind of rescue and other missions typically carried out by Guardsmen stateside.
Some Governors Face Fallout Over Health Law Ruling (Wall Street Journal)
The prospect of millions of people losing federal tax credits they obtained under the health law places some governors and legislators in a tough spot in the run-up to this fall’s elections. Some 36 states turned over the task of running the health law’s insurance exchanges to the federal government. If courts ultimately back Tuesday’s decision by a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., which held that Americans can obtain tax credits only if their state is operating its own exchange, then officials in these states may come under pressure to find ways to ensure residents keep subsidies. Most of the 36 states are led by Republicans who oppose the Affordable Care Act. The flawed rollout of the health law gave fodder to Republicans to criticize Democrats.
TVA Begins Removing Trees From Nashville Neighborhood (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Residents found out their Davidson County neighborhood would be changing drastically last month and now, the work has begun. Despite a strong fight, trees in the Lake Park Subdivision are being chopped down by the dozens. Officials with the Tennessee Valley Authority said it’s for their own protection. In June, the TVA told Teri Stephenson, and the rest of her 200-plus neighbors, it would be chopping down any tree that falls within 75 feet of its transmission lines. “Well I hate it because it provided nice shade for our backyard and so now it’s gone,” she said. So far, the trees at six homes have been carted away; the only reminders of the past are left-behind tree stumps and firewood.
Former union supporters accuse UAW of ‘back-door deals’ with VW (TFP/Pare)
A new letter to Volkswagen employees from the United Auto Workers says its officials are confident VW will recognize the union if it gains “a meaningful portion” of the workforce as members of its Chattanooga local. But two former UAW supporters said they don’t trust the union anymore, adding that it and VW signed a neutrality agreement leading up to February’s plant organizing vote which stated there’d be no organizing activities for a year. The UAW letter, sent to VW plant employees after the announcement last week that the automaker would bring assembly of a new vehicle to Chattanooga, said union officials have “a consensus” with VW.
Nashville to tackle racial ‘discipline gap’ in schools (Tennessean/Garrison)
Numbers tell a story in Nashville that’s in urban school districts across nation — a pattern of vastly more suspensions and expulsions among students of color, particularly black boys, than among their peers. Educators call it a “discipline gap,” and the disparity has continued to challenge the nation’s biggest cities 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education upended a public school system that subscribed to “separate but equal.” Now, convinced that solving that gap is fundamental to ever bridge the gulf between academic outcomes, Metro school officials have begun creating a plan to tackle a problem that’s proven unbending year after year.
Koch groups visit Nashville to back school vouchers (Tennessean/Garrison)
Recognizing Tennessee’s widespread focus on education, two organizations led by one of the conservative Koch brothers stopped by Nashville Tuesday night and gave a platform to speakers who promoted an option this state still lacks — school vouchers. Letting parents use public dollars to attend private school quickly emerged as a leading remedy to solve education performance woes during a Charles Koch Institute-backed panel talk Tuesday featuring heads of right-leaning think tanks and a Connecticut high school.
Union County board to meet to discuss fate of Virtual Academy (N-S/McCoy)
The Union County school board will meet in an emergency meeting on Thursday to decide if it will enroll 600 more students into the troubled Tennessee Virtual Academy. Director of Schools Jimmy Carter on Tuesday said the district was warned July 10 by the state that enrolling the students could put the school’s future at risk. “The way the commissioner put it to us, it’s our decision,” Carter said. “But I guess there are consequences to our decisions.” Carter said state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman looked at the online school’s test scores by years of enrollment and found that last year’s students did not perform as well as those from the previous years.
Shelby County schools working to add pre-K classes (Commercial Appeal/Roberts)
Early-childhood leaders in Shelby County Schools were poring over district maps Tuesday, trying to see where the district could restore 10-12 pre-K classrooms for the school year that begins in less than two weeks, thanks to $3 million from the Shelby County Commission. “These additional funds from the county commission will provide us an opportunity to serve classrooms affected by the loss of ‘Race to the Top’ dollars. We will also be able to add additional pre-K classrooms to some of our highest-need locations,” said spokesman Christian Ross. Each pre-K classroom costs about $120,000 a year.
KCSO: Four people arrested, 3 children taken to hospital after meth lab bust (N-S)
Knox County authorities on Monday arrested four people and took three children to a hospital in connection with a meth lab bust, officials said. The three children were taken to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital to be tested for exposure to methamphetamine, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release. Arrested were Leslie Mendez, 26, Tammy Mercer, 47, Emily Steinbach, 18 and Johnathan Thompson, 25. Addresses and court hearing information were not available. According to the news release, Mendez, Mercer and Steinbach each were charged with promotion of methamphetamine and were being held on a $4,000 bond.
North Carolina: McCrory rift with Senate may stall NC budget (Charlotte Observer)
The feud has been a running subtext to North Carolina’s legislative session, with threats and perceived insults occasionally flaring into headlines. Now some say it may be contributing to the state’s budget impasse. Tension between Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and GOP Senate leaders, particularly President Pro Tem Phil Berger, has colored a session that lawmakers hoped to adjourn by July 4. GOP senators say McCrory, more than previous governors, has injected himself into the budget battle, further complicating controversies over teacher pay and Medicaid funding.
Ohio: Ohio collecting more in online sales taxes (Columbus Dispatch)
Online sales-tax collections hit a record $45 million in Ohio in the budget year that just ended, a 68 percent increase from five years ago. The money is pouring in after Ohio officially joined a multistate effort to streamline sales tax for online purchases in January. The Ohio Department of Taxation estimates that the state stands to eventually tap into $308 million worth of tax revenue from online sales. Still, Ohio doesn’t have legal authority to collect from online retailers that don’t have a physical location in the state. Amazon.com’s closest warehouse is in Hebron, Ky. The result: Many consumers don’t get charged sales tax on millions of dollars’ worth of purchases.
Editorial: House should back Internet sales tax bill passed by Senate (N-S)
The National Governors Association closed its conference in Nashville earlier this month by achieving consensus for collecting taxes on Internet sales. Clearly the next step is convincing those who represent their states in the U.S. House to get on board. Collecting taxes on Internet sales was described both as a states’ rights issue as well as a fairness issue. Indeed, it is both, and pending legislation in Congress drew bipartisan support from the governors in Nashville. They were no doubt buoyed by comments from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, host for the conference, and Tennessee’s U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.
Editorial: Assault on justices is attack on independent judiciary (C. Appeal)
Tennessee voters, as they go to the polls for the Aug. 7 elections, can send a message that they do not want partisan politics to be the primary determinant of who sits on the state’s appellate courts. Lt. Gov. and state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, joined by other GOP leaders and some interest groups, has launched an all-out campaign to see that three state Supreme Court justices — Connie Clark, Sharon Lee and Chief Justice Gary Wade — are ousted. He claims, among other things, that the justices are soft on crime and anti-business, which, frankly, are worn-out stereotypical labels that conservatives like to hurl at perceived liberal judges.
Editorial: An Ominous Health Care Ruling (New York Times)
Millions of low- and moderate-income people who signed up for health insurance with the help of federal tax-credit subsidies could find themselves without coverage or facing big premium bills if a destructive decision handed down by a federal appeals court in Washington on Tuesday is not reversed. It would be a crippling blow to the ability of the Affordable Care Act to reduce the ranks of the uninsured with grievous consequences for vulnerable customers. For now, consumers are expected to retain their coverage and tax credits while this and similar suits in other jurisdictions wend their way through the court system.
Editorial: Aid Veterans Affairs by Nixing Budget Gimmickry (Wall Street Journal)
The worst scandal in decades at the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t only involve unethical staffers cooking the books on waiting times, inexcusable as that is. Woefully inadequate VA funding and budget gimmicks by multiple Congresses and administrations created the long waiting lists in the first place. As a federal agency that provides a singular array of services to a growing number of Americans—from medical care to disability benefits, from pensions to burials—the VA must have the funding, staff and infrastructure to meet veterans’ needs. This has rarely been the case.