This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Shiloh Industries to bring Clarksville 150 new jobs (Leaf Chronicle)
A replacement tenant for the abandoned Contech/Metal Forge factory building in the Clarksville-Montgomery County Corporate Business Park will bring about 150 new jobs to town in an estimated $20 million investment. On Tuesday afternoon, the city-county Industrial Development Board approved a nine-year property tax abatement agreement to help facilitate the deal with new tenant Shiloh Industries Inc. The company is a steel and aluminum supplier to the automotive industry. Already having a manufacturing presence in nearby Dickson, the company’s leading customer in this region is the Nissan plant in Smyrna.
Overdoses leading cause of Tennessee deaths (Associated Press)
Drug overdoses are once again the leading cause of death in Tennessee, but the state Health Department is hoping a new law will reverse that trend. According to data released Tuesday by the state Health Department’s Vital Statistics office, drug overdoses killed 1,166 people last year. By comparison, 1,008 people died in motor vehicle accidents last year and 405 were victims of homicides. But a law effective July 1 gives Tennesseans access to a life-saving drug. Naloxone (na-LAHX’ohn) temporarily reverses the deadly effects of opioid drugs, giving the person time to reach a medical provider.
Drug overdose deaths rise in Tennessee (Tennessean/Wilemon)
More people died from drug overdoses in Tennessee during 2013 than the prior year, the Tennessee Department of Health said Tuesday. Overdose fatalities totaled 1,166. More Tennesseans died from drug overdoses than in motor vehicle accidents, homicides or suicides. The increase in overdose deaths over 2012 was 6.5 percent. Health officials are reminding the public that people now have an option that can save the lives of loved ones who are at risk for overdoses. On July 1, Tennessee began allowing doctors to prescribe an antidote to narcotic overdoses called naloxone.
Historic CMSP bathhouse gets new use with renovation (Crossville Chronicle)
When a new pool was constructed at Cumberland Mountain State Park in the 1980s, the beach area was converted to a quiet place to watch the water and the bath house was boarded up. Last week, the state celebrated the return of the original park building to use as a modern restroom facility that is ADA accessible and as an educational and interpretive center. “This will be used so much,” said Mark Houston, ranger at CMSP, noting it was close to the patio of the restaurant and would be very convenient for park programs.
Department of Correction hosting Citizens’ Academy (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Department of Correction is accepting applications for its Citizens’ Correctional Academy. The academy is designed to give Tennesseans an in-depth look at the state’s largest law enforcement agency, with more than 6,800 men and women. Classes are held every Tuesday evening during the month of September at Riverbend Maximum SecurityInstitution in Nashville. Applications for the Citizens’ Correctional Academy are available on the Department of Correction website at http://tn.gov/correction.
Greenbrier woman charged with TennCare fraud (Tennessean)
A Greenbrier woman was arrested for TennCare fraud, the Office of the Inspector General announced Tuesday. Brandy N. Brooks, 28, was charged with three counts of TennCare fraud by doctor shopping and three counts of obtaining a controlled substance, according to the press release. The drug obtained was the painkiller Hydrocodone, the prescriptions for which authorities say were paid for with TennCare health insurance benefits. The charges are based out of Sumner County, the release states. “This continues to be an ongoing battle with people defrauding TennCare for their drugs and it’s a battle we will continue to fight.”
Dread-Jones judicial race hinges on personality (Tennessean/Haas)
The judicial race between Adam Dread and Lynda Jones pits one of the county’s most colorful legal personalities against a longtime attorney who is making a third attempt to become a judge. Jones touts more than double the legal experience Dread has, but Dread says his more varied experience — as a stand-up comedian, radio host and Metro councilman — shows more strength than weakness. Dread also isn’t afraid to criticize his opponent, accusing her of being a “predatory lawyer” for suing former bankruptcy clients of hers.
TN chief justice pleads his case to stay behind bench (Johnson City Press)
On another sweep through East Tennessee, Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade met with judges, attorneys and others on Tuesday to continue his efforts to combat an attack campaign to oust him from the bench. His message is clear — the Supreme Court delivers unbiased, nonpartisan decisions on court cases sent for the panel’s review. Wade was in Upper East Tennessee earlier this month to meet with editorial boards of local media outlets. The onslaught of negative campaign ads call for Tennesseans to boot Wade and Justice Connie Clark and Justice Sharon Lee.
Kingsport, Bristol voters to decide on wine in grocery stores (Times-News)
Voters in both Kingsport and Bristol will be allowed on the November ballot to decide whether wine should be sold in grocery stores. Sullivan County Elections Administrator Jason Booher confirms his office has verified the minimum required number of petition signatures for the referendum issue to be voted on in both localities. About 600 people signed petitions in Bristol, while 1,220 did the same in Kingsport “with several pages of signatures left” to be checked, according to Booher. “The Election Commission is required to certify the signatures and is scheduled to do so in August,” Booher said in an e-mail.
In Tennessee, consensus politics makes a last stand (Washington Post)
On the first day of July, Sen. Lamar Alexander delivered a moving eulogy at the funeral of his political mentor, Howard H. Baker Jr., the former Senate majority leader and godfather of the Tennessee Republican Party. Baker, he said, had “more influence on my life than anyone outside my own family. Like Baker, Alexander (R-Tenn.) has had an exemplary career in public service. He was elected to two terms as governor of Tennessee and later served as president of the University of Tennessee and U.S. education secretary. Twice he sought his party’s nomination for president, though, like Baker, he was unsuccessful.
Sen. Lamar Alexander spends big on ads (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sher)
Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s campaign spent $1.34 million, much of it on television broadcast and cable ads, during the first 18 days of July as he ramped up his GOP primary effort for early voting in Tennessee, his disclosure shows. The two-term senator reported to the Senate Secretary’s Office of Public Records that he had $2.19 million in cash on hand as of July 18. Alexander reported receiving $129,138 in contributions July 1-18. But one of Alexander’s rivals in the Aug. 7 primary, tea party favorite Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, had just $170,000 in cash on hand at the end of the preprimary reporting period, campaign manager Donald Rickard said in an email to the Times Free Press. Carr raised about $70,000 in the period, Rickard said.
Alexander dismisses claims he isn’t conservative enough (Daily News Journal)
After recent tea party criticisms accusing Sen. Lamar Alexander of not being conservative enough, the incumbent, who has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, Tuesday morning defended his record during a tour of the Barrett Firearms plant outside Murfreesboro. Alexander came under fire last week after state Rep. Joe Carr, a GOP primary opponent, reportedly said all the senator’s recent endorsements are from the Stone Age after Carr received a nod from former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin.
Blackburn prescription drug bill clears House (Tennessean/Barton)
A bill Rep. Marsha Blackburn co-sponsored to curb prescription drug abuse passed the House Tuesday. The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act was introduced earlier this year by Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa. It passed on a voice vote. Blackburn, R-Brentwood, is an original co-sponsor, along with two Democrats, Reps. Peter Welch of Vermont and Judy Chu of California. The bill now goes to the Senate. A key part of the proposed legislation clarifies the Controlled Substances Act, making it easier for the Drug Enforcement Administration to suspend narcotics licenses of those in the supply chain whose actions have shown they pose an “imminent danger” to public health.
Super PAC’s pro-Weston Wamp ads exceed $300,000 (Times Free-Press/Brogdon)
After a super PAC supporting Tennessee 3rd Congressional District candidate Weston Wamp dropped an additional $193,000 on a campaign ad this week, his rival’s camp is again calling on Wamp to denounce the political action committee. The Character Counts PAC, a Fairfax, Va.-based group, on Monday reported spending $171,967 with Herd Media for commercials in the Chattanooga and Knoxville television markets. It also paid Washington D.C.-based JDA Frontline $20,825 for producing the ad. JDA’s principals include Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
Donut hole savings add up for Tennessee Medicare recipients (Tenn/Wilemon)
Tennesseans on Medicare have saved nearly $239 million on medicine since 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The savings are due to the shrinkage of the “donut hole” — the threshold when Medicare recipients are responsible for paying out of pocket for medicines. One of the first provisions of the Affordable Care Act to go into effect lessened this responsibility by staggered amounts until 2020, when the donut hole goes away. “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, seniors and people with disabilities are saving on needed medications,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell.
New Chattanooga VA clinic would cut veterans’ wait times (TFP/Hardy)
Chattanooga’s VA clinic would more than double in size under a bipartisan agreement reached in Congress this week — a move expected to help alleviate long waits and cut down on travel for veterans across the Tennessee Valley. Chattanooga’s current 40,000-square-foot outpatient clinic, near Eastgate Town Center, will expand to 100,000 square feet and will offer more specialist care — including optometry, ophthalmology, radiology, orthopedics and podiatry — under a $17 billion congressional proposal to hire more doctors and nurses and lease 27 new clinics to treat veterans.
VA manipulated vets’ appointment data, audit finds (USA Today)
Internal VA documents show the depth of fraudulent scheduling, manipulation of data and in some cases intimidation of staff to hide delays in medical care to veterans in the 6-million patient national system. Auditors found at least one appointment scheduler at 109 VA medical centers who said wait times for veterans had been falsified, according to a USA TODAY analysis of internal VA survey data made public Tuesday. To keep evidence of delayed care out of the VA’s official electronic tracking system, secret lists were maintained at 110 facilities, the analysis shows.
Sierra Club targets TVA in state-wide ad campaign (Memphis Business Journal)
The Sierra Club has launched a statewide ad campaign to promote green alternatives to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s re-purposing of Memphis’ Allen Fossil Plant. On Sunday the Sierra Club ran a full-page ad in the Knoxville News-Sentinel applauding the TVA for retiring the Memphis coal burning plant and urging that they adopt renewable resources instead of replacing the plant with a natural gas facility. Ads will also run in the Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Flyer. Radio advertisements will run throughout late July in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis. A digital ad campaign will also be introduced.
Erlanger opens ER facility in Dunlap (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Flessner)
When Keith Cartright became Sequatchie County mayor two years ago, the first thing he did after being sworn into office was to call Erlanger Health System to urge the hospital to restore emergency medical service to Dunlap, Tenn. “Getting ER service back in Sequatchie County was my highest priority because I know that medical care is critical not only to the care of our residents but in business recruitment,” Cartright said. On Tuesday, after years of negotiations and an investment of $250,000 each from the county and the U.S. Appalachian Regional Commission, Erlanger opened an ER facility in Dunlap as an extension of the Erlanger Bledsoe campus in Pikeville, Tenn.
8 school districts, including new municipal systems, hold registration (CA/Bailey)
Families showed up for registration at schools across the county Tuesday, including six municipal school districts opening for their inaugural terms. The six, plus the Achievement School District and Shelby County Schools, all start classes Monday under the most significant local educational reconfiguration in recent history. The districts are the result of Memphis City Schools surrendering its charter, leading to Shelby County assuming operation of all schools in Memphis, the suburbs and unincorporated areas. The combined system lasted a year.
Registration day is study in lengths parents (and one principal) will go (CA/Roberts)
Briana Lawson, 13, clapped her hands in delight when she saw her schedule at Bellevue Middle, an optional school in Midtown run by Shelby County Schools. Five minutes later she couldn’t remember anything about the order of her day except that she got Spanish. Third period. “I really want to learn how to speak the language,” she said with her mother, Robyn, beaming. Registration day in Memphis, a city with more than 40 charter schools and dozens of optional schools, is increasingly a study in the growing number of education choices and the parents who are taking advantage of them.
North Carolina: Budget Deal Includes a Raise for Teachers (New York Times)
Leaders of the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature on Tuesday announced details of a tentative budget agreement, including a 7 percent pay raise for teachers in public schools, that could end a monthlong stalemate that has exposed a breach between Republican conservatives and moderates in the state. Legislative leaders announced some details of the $21.3 billion spending plan in an afternoon news conference in Raleigh, the capital. Most notably, they highlighted the $282 million earmarked for teacher salary increases. Phil Berger, the president pro tem of the Senate, said the money would raise North Carolina’s average pay for public teachers to 32nd in the nation from 46th.