This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Enterprise South could see 2,000 more supplier jobs, officials say (TFP/Pare)
Some 300 acres that Volkswagen is freeing up at Enterprise South industrial park in Chattanooga for potential suppliers ultimately could add another 20 companies and 2,000 jobs, economic developers say. “We’re seeing a lot of interest from auto suppliers,” said Nick Wilkinson, the city’s deputy administrator for economic development, in the wake of VW’s planned $600 million investment to make a new vehicle and hire 2,000 more workers at its Chattanooga plant. Enterprise South emerged from the former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant, which provided the U.S. Army with ammo going back to World War II.
Official: Storms destroy 10 East Tennessee homes (Associated Press)
Powerful storms that raked across several states in the eastern U.S. on Sunday destroyed at least 10 homes in Tennessee, but there were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries, authorities said. Spokeswoman Gina Breeding with the office of emergency management in east Tennessee’s Claiborne County told The Associated Press that officers searched ruined homes Sunday night in one particularly hard-hit community, Speedwell. She said the county sheriff and his wife safely took refuge in their basement when storms hit and destroyed their home. “He and his wife are both OK,” Breeding said by telephone, adding law enforcement officials had set up a command post for operations and a school was opened for anyone left homeless.
Damaging storms, hail sweep East Tennessee (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Hickman)
National Weather Service officials planned to survey at least three East Tennessee areas today for possible tornado strikes, including Claiborne County, where 10 homes were destroyed by a severe, swift-moving storm Sunday night. The damage, reported along state Highway 63 in the Speedwell community, included Claiborne County Sheriff David Ray’s home, according to Gina Breeding, Claiborne County Emergency Management Agency’s administrative/operations officer. Ray and his wife took refuge in their basement, Breeding said. The couple emerged unhurt and the sheriff then went to work at a local emergency service command post, she added. Searchers were going door-to-door amid debris of ruined homes in Speedwell, Breeding added.
Severe storms hit Mountain Empire (Bristol Herald-Courier)
Officials with the National Weather Service will evaluate damage today to determine if tornadoes touched down in the Mountain Empire for the second time in three years following a series of super cell storms Sunday afternoon Preliminary storm reports from the agency’s Morristown, Tennessee, office and information from Sullivan County Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Bean showed the Eastern Star Road and Rock Springs Road areas near Kingsport were the hardest hit areas of a storm that began just after 5 p.m. in the Tri-Cities region. A section of Gray, Tennessee, also received significant wind damage, according to preliminary data from the agency.
Storms slam Rock Springs area; more on the way (Times-News)
The area of Sullivan County near Rock Springs Road and Eastern Star Road was hardest hit by the “touchdown” of storms moving through the region early Sunday evening, Sullivan County Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Bean confirmed to the Times-News around 8 p.m. No injuries had been reported at that time, Bean said, although four homes in the area had heavy damage — including two he would classify at “100 percent.” Bean said he and other Sullivan County emergency personnel were canvassing the area, along with personnel from Washington County.
Though unconfirmed, emergency officials say tornadoes touched down (JCP)
Although it won’t be confirmed until the National Weather Service inspects the area Monday, emergency responders believe tornadoes caused widespread damage across Washington County. On Sunday evening at around 6, Johnson City firefighters from Fire Station 8, located at 106 Gray Commons Circle, reported seeing a tornado touch down in the area of Oak Grove Road in Gray. Over the next hour, more than 4,000 homes lost power, lightning struck several homes and severe winds knocked down trees, power lines and structures in Sullivan and Washington counties.
Possible tornado in Campbell, Claiborne counties, damage reported (WATE-TV)
Dispatchers in Campbell and Claiborne counties say a possible tornado has caused a large amount of damage in the Doakes Creek area, including trees down and homes destroyed. Emergency officials said Sunday evening they were having a difficult time reaching the damaged areas. Officials said 20 to 30 homes were damaged, but so far no serious injuries have been reported. An emergency shelter was set up at West LaFollette Elementary School. In Claiborne County, the home belonging to Sheriff David Ray and his family was destroyed in the storm. They were not injured because they were taking cover in their basement.
Storms cause major damage in Claiborne, Campbell counties (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
Clean-up was underway in Claiborne and Campbell counties early Monday morning after powerful storms ripped through East Tennessee. The strong system could have spawned a tornado in Claiborne County. WBIR 10News can’t confirm that a tornado struck down in Speedwell, but the damage on Old Highway 63 is extensive. The D&P Grocery on that highway was destroyed in Sunday night’s storm. In all about 10 homes were destroyed near the Campbell and Claiborne county line. Several of those homes were along Ray Lane in Claiborne County. One of the homes damaged in Claiborne County was Sheriff David Ray’s house.
At least 10 homes in Campbell & Claiborne counties destroyed by storms (WVLT)
There are reports of wide spread damage in Campbell and Claiborne Counties because of the storms Sunday night. A command center has been set up on Highway 63. A shelter has also been set of up at West LaFollette Elementary. There are no reports of any fatalities or serious injuries. Some minor injuries have been reported. However, up to ten homes have been destroyed and several others have been damaged. Some of the homes with minor roof damage others have trees down, and the power was out for several hours in the area. There are multiple roads that are closed because of the damage.
‘A great ride’: TDOT to celebrate anniversary, preserve historic legacy (N-S/Jones)
Fred and Paul Corum both worked for the Tennessee Department of Transportation for about 40 to 50 years. They aren’t related but are friends, Rule High School graduates and former co-workers who held many positions at TDOT and have been a part of its impact on Knoxville and East Tennessee. It’s an impact that began July 1, 1915, when TDOT started operations throughout the state. Today the agency is planning a yearlong centennial celebration titled “100 Years of Moving Tennessee Forward,” and taking a look back into its past and sharing it with Tennesseans through special events, museum exhibits and a Web page.
Ads stoke state justices’ retention debate (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Humphrey)
Tennessee lawyers are forming a bedrock of support for three state Supreme Court justices striving to win new terms, recently adding get-out-the-vote efforts to financial support, as court critics escalate attempts to convince conservative Republican voters that the judges are liberal Democrats. Combined spending on TV ads by both sides in the campaign has now passed $500,000, according to figures collected Friday by Justice at Stake, a national organization that tracks state judicial elections. The biggest chunk of that — $246,475 — has been spent by Tennessee Forum, one of groups opposing retention.
Campbell tries to return House seat to Dems (Tennessean/Broden)
Three Republicans hope to keep the Tennessee House 48th District as a GOP seat, but only one will carry his party’s banner in November. State Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas, northeast of Murfreesboro, gave up the 48th District seat to run in the Aug. 7 Republican primary against U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. Those hoping to succeed Carr on the GOP side are Adam Coggin, a member of the Rutherford County Commission and a director at the AdamsPlace retirement center in Murfreesboro; Rick Peppers, owner and operator of Angus cattle business Five Peppers Farm, and founder of an engineering company with his wife; and Bryan Terry, a Murfreesboro physician.
Joe Carr and George Flinn blast Lamar Alexander (Times Free-Press/Sher)
For a low-key, even-keeled kind of a guy, Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is nonetheless managing to ignite a lot of passion on Tennessee’s campaign trail right now. Much of it, however, is directed against the 74-year-old former governor and two-term senator by his two main GOP primary opponents, state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, and Memphis multi-millionaire radiologist and radio station-chain owner George Flinn. Carr and Flinn are the best known among the six challengers to Alexander in the GOP Aug. 7 primary, for which the second week of early voting starts today. Carr and his Tennessee-based tea party supporters think they have Alexander in their sights.
PAC money used attack Alexander in Senate primary (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)
A political action committee founded by Andrew Miller, an arch conservative Nashville millionaire, spent more than $250,000 last week on media advertising that attacks U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and another $31,000 supporting Joe Carr, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Citizens 4 Ethics in Government also spent $15,000 in support of U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who is facing a strong Republican primary challenge from state Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, according to the independent expenditure reports filed with the FEC on Friday.
Lawmakers Reach Deal on a Fix for V.A.’s Health Care System (New York Times)
House and Senate negotiators reached agreement during the weekend on a legislative package intended to stabilize the Department of Veterans Affairs’ sprawling and embattled health care system, according to people briefed on the deal. The leaders in the negotiations — Senator Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent, and Representative Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican — plan to outline the agreement at a news conference Monday afternoon. The legislation is expected to include provisions for emergency relief that would allow veterans who live far from a V.A. facility or who face wait times that exceed a certain duration to see private doctors, and have those visits paid for by the government.
Secrecy Over Executions Faces Challenges (Wall Street Journal)
Details on capital punishment have gone behind the curtain, a trend that states call necessary but death-penalty opponents contend allows execution methods that may violate the U.S. Constitution. The latest battle over secrecy culminated last week in Arizona’s execution of Joseph R. Wood III, a convicted murderer whose death by lethal injection took nearly two hours and was marked by repeated bouts of labored breathing. State officials had disclosed basic facts about the execution, but they had refused to divulge other information, largely relying on an Arizona statute that shields the identity of executioners.
States Debate Regulating Digital Currency (Stateline)
Digital currencies — also known as virtual currencies or cash for the Internet —allow people to transfer value over the Internet, but are not legal tender. Because they don’t require third-party intermediaries such as credit card companies or PayPal, merchants and consumers can avoid the fees typically associated with traditional payment systems. Advocates of virtual currencies also say that because personal information is not tied to transactions, digital currencies are less prone to identity theft. With about $7.8 billion in circulation, bitcoin is the most widely used digital currency; others include Litecoin and Peercoin. All are examples of cryptocurrencies, a subset of digital currencies that rely on cryptography to function.
Editorial: Problems with execution drugs must be solved (News-Sentinel)
If you believe in the death penalty, Joseph Wood, a 55-year-old Arizona ne’er-do-well, was certainly an argument for having one. He regularly beat up his girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, who was seeing him over her father’s objections, and when she broke up with him and got a protective order, Wood shot the father and then shot Ms. Dietz. The last words she heard were him calling her an expletive. His guilt was conclusive and, after appeals that reached the Supreme Court, the state last week carried out his execution in bumbling fashion. The bumbling was not entirely the state’s fault. The more foolproof ways of killing someone — firing squads, the electric chair, the gas chamber, hanging — have fallen out of fashion.
Editorial: There should be rules governing excessive absences by judges (CA)
When judges are excessively absent from the bench they are cheating the public and those seeking justice. A special report by The Commercial Appeal’s investigative reporters Marc Perrusquia and Beth Warren shows that fact seemingly has escaped the consciences of General Sessions Civil Court Judges Phyllis Gardner, Betty Thomas Moore and Lonnie Thompson. The reporters’ examination of the judges’ work history, which appeared in Sunday’s newspaper and at commercialappeal.com, revealed that Gardner, Moore and Thompson missed about 18 percent of their court sessions from 2009 to 2013, while still receiving their full annual salaries, which now top $167,000.
Editorial: Congress must act quickly on VA reforms (Leaf Chronicle)
Congress must move before its August recess on two key pieces of business and get on with its duty to help fix the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs. Clarksville’s large veteran community, and veterans across the country, urgently need these actions. First, the Senate should quickly approve the nomination of Bob McDonald, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble, to lead the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. McDonald, nominated by President Obama to succeed Eric Shinseki – a retired general who resigned amid a scandal over lengthy delays for service at veterans’ hospitals – is a good choice to take on the difficult job of cleaning up the VA and ensuring that veterans get quality, timely care.