August 5 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.

Tenn. education ranking outpaces Mid-South neighbors (Nashville Biz Journal)
School officially begins this week in Davidson County, education has been on the minds of parents and the public in the Nashville area for quite some time. Website Wallethub.com decided to rank the public education systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Tennessee sits in the middle of the pack at No. 28, but a look at the state’s Mid-South neighbors might make Tennesseans feel lucky to be so high. Mississippi ranked No. 50, with only Washington D.C. ranking lower. Alabama (No. 49), Arkansas (No. 44) and Kentucky (No. 41) didn’t fare much better.

Haslam’s re-election campaign adopts party-cheerleader feel (CA/Veazey)
He spoke highly of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. He touted a goal of 750,000 Republican primary voters. And even when he pitched success during his tenure, he characterized it as something he did alongside the General Assembly. Yes, Gov. Bill Haslam is seeking re-election — and first, re-nomination in this week’s state primary — this year. But given the lightweight field of challengers, his campaign efforts, like the rally he held alongside Alexander, U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher and a handful of local officials Monday afternoon at Bartlett’s W.J. Freeman Park, have the atmosphere of a statewide get-out-the-vote effort.

Republicans Rally In Bartlett (Memphis Daily News)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told a group of several hundred Republicans in Bartlett Monday, Aug. 4, that he would like to see a statewide turnout in the August Republican primaries of 750,000. Haslam and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander have been on a statewide bus tour since last week to pump up overall Republican turnout even as they face opposition in the GOP primaries for governor and the U.S. Senate. The goal is to also boost the turnout for Republican candidates in local general election races on the ballot. They were joined at the Bartlett stop by U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, Sheriff Bill Oldham, County Trustee David Lenoir and hosted by Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald.

Haslam, Alexander, Fincher campaign in West Tenn. (Jackson Sun)
Gov. Bill Haslam greeted more than 150 of his supporters at a gathering Monday morning at the Bakers Rack in downtown Jackson. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump, accompanied the governor at the event. All three men are running for re-election and face challengers in Thursday’s state Republican primary. The general election will be Nov. 4. “The election is upon us,” Fincher said. “Thursday is the big day, and we need your help. Senator Alexander and I are fighting Washington, and because of Governor Haslam and others, things are going great at the state level, but we need your help.”

Top Tenn. GOPers Rally Shelby County Voters (WHBQ-TV Memphis)
With the Aug. 7 election three days away. Tennessee’s top Republicans in Shelby County, Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander got together in Bartlett for a get out the vote rally. Both men are at the top of the ticket in this Thursday’s election. Gov. Haslam is running for his second term as the Volunteer State’s chief executive. He’s not facing a significant primary or general election challenge, but he’s traveling the state this week campaigning and working to get out the vote for other candidates. Sen. Alexander, who arrived in his campaign bus, is running for a third term to represent Tennessee in Washington, D.C.

Gov. Bill Haslam, Sen. Lamar Alexander campaigning together (Nooga)
Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Lamar Alexander are campaigning together in Tennessee this week before the Aug. 7 election. Though they face challengers in the Republican primary, both men are favored to win their party’s nominations. In a news release, they indicated that their joint appearances are geared toward hitting record-breaking turnout in the GOP primary throughout the state. “A record turnout will send a strong message that Tennesseans care about the direction of our state and country,” Haslam said.

Hundreds of workers cleaning up after Claiborne tornado (News-Sentinel/Keny)
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency is coordinating with over 10 state and local departments and volunteer organizations to clean up debris in Claiborne and Campbell counties from the July 27 tornado. Having helped with response efforts when the EF-3 tornado hit, TEMA is now taking part with the National Guard and others in a cleanup task force. Work began Monday. Gov. Bill Haslam’s office approved requests for TEMA’s assistance from both county mayors. “We are here to fill the gaps when something gets beyond the capability of a county to respond to or recover from,” said TEMA spokesman Dean Flener, who is in East Tennessee with the cleanup.

TDEC wins wellness competition (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has received the Wellness Champion Award in the Working for a Healthier Tennessee competition. The competition stems from the Healthier Tennessee initiative created by Gov. Bill Haslam. It encourages state employees to actively take part in setting a positive example for Tennesseans in the area of health and wellness. TDEC earned the highest recognition based on accumulating the most wellness points, which were earned by things like hosting wellness fairs, creating newsletters and establishing walking groups across the state.

DOT removing merge lane on I-65 North at Trinity Lane (Tennessean/Faris)
The Tennessee Department of Transportation has announced they are removing the merge lane from the Trinity Lane exit ramp on Interstate 65 North and shifting the concrete median. The work should be complete by 5 a.m. Tuesday. TDOT will close the on ramp at Trinity Lane at 8 p.m. Monday night in order to shift the concrete median before completely removing the merge lane at the exit ramp. TDOT said this work is being done ahead of schedule in order to give drivers an adjustment period before the next major rerouting project next year.

Rhetoric heats up on Tennessee Supreme Court retention vote (TFP/South)
A local state senator scoffed Monday at the idea that judge races in Tennessee are nonpartisan, while two of the state Supreme Court justices facing retention votes this week called the conservative push to oust them nothing more than a “power grab.” Only two days remain until voters statewide decide whether the state’s three Supreme Court justices should be retained. The rhetoric coming from both sides Monday signaled how heated this issue has become. State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, spoke to nearly 50 die-hard Republicans at the Pachyderm Club’s regular meeting about why voters should boot Supreme Court Justices Gary Wade, Sharon Lee and Connie Clark.

District 7 candidates debate (Johnson City Press)
Three days before the state’s Republican primary election — and three days after the conclusion of early voting — two of the three candidates for the District 7 seat of the state House of Representatives appeared before an assemblage of Washington County residents to explain their views on Republican, state and national issues. On Monday evening, incumbent state Rep. Matthew Hill and one of his challengers, Todd Franklin, opined on topics ranging from Common Core to whether or not the Muslim community should be considered threatening in front of around five to six dozen spectators at the Jonesborough Visitors Center.

Wine in grocery stores makes Spring Hill ballot (Tennessean/Walters)
Spring Hill residents will vote in November on whether wine can be sold in local grocery stores and convenience stores. A spokeswoman for retailers association Red White and Food said the required number of signatures have been turned in and verified for Spring Hill. With more than 1,970 signatures collected, Spring Hill is the second Williamson County city after Fairview to collect the required number of valid signatures on petitions needed to get the wine referendum on the November ballot. Spring Hill is divided between Maury and Williamson counties. “Residents of Spring Hill have been very supportive of the campaign to allow wine sales in Tennessee’s retail food stores,” Susie Alcorn, Red White and Food campaign manager, said in a statement.

Wine in grocery stores may come to Smyrna (Daily News Journal)
Smyrna voters will get the chance Nov. 4 to decide if wine should be sold in their grocery stores by July 1, 2016, the Rutherford County Election Commission learned Monday night. A petition drive succeeded in collecting signatures of at least 816 registered voters who live in Smyrna town limits to qualify to participate in the referendum, Interim Election Administrator Rhonda McFerrin said during the meeting. To get the wine referendum on the ballot, eligible communities — those that already allow liquor-by-the-drink at restaurants, liquor stores or both — must submit these petitions to the local Election Commission with at least as many signatures as would equal 10 percent of their residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election.

Lamar Alexander’s voting record offends some groups (Tennessean/Barton)
If Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, as expected, wins the nomination for a third term in the Aug. 7 primary, it will be in spite of the unkind comments some leading conservative groups make about his Senate voting record. Typical of them is American Conservative Union, founded in 1964 and considered one of the nation’s premier conservative voices and among the largest conservative grass-roots advocacy organizations. When far-right commentators and bloggers hammer Alexander, the ACU’s scoring of his Senate votes frequently comes up. On Friday, the ACU Political Action Committee sent out its list of endorsements for this week’s Tennessee primary and Alexander was not among them.

Uninsured still rely on faith-based clinics even after ACA (Tennessean/Wilemon)
Carissa Cameron didn’t know if her toddler had a cold or more serious infection, so she took him to see a doctor at Mercy Community Healthcare in Franklin. “We don’t have insurance,” she said, holding her 16-month-old son close. “This is somewhere I can come and make sure he is healthy and that everything is good with him. It’s nice to have something to fall back on.” The faith-based clinic in Franklin is treating more people than it was four years ago, and so are others in Middle Tennessee. These Christian nonprofits have had to make major transitions because of a sputtering economy and changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act.

TVA to pay $27.8 million to spill victims (Memphis Business Journal)
The Tennessee Valley Authority has agreed to pay $27.8 million to more than 800 Tennessee property owners to settle damages from the 2008 Kingston Fossil Plant spill. The spill happened when a dike ruptured at a containment area at the plant in Roane County. Five million cubic yards of fly-ash, a coal-combustion waste product, flowed into the Emory River and damaged hundreds of residential acres near Chattanooga. According the Environmental Protection Agency, the coal ash contains arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium and other pollutants. In 2012, the EPA approved a plan to leave the remaining material in the Emory and Clinch rivers to avoid stirring up contaminants.

Federal appeal filed for protesters, challenges sabotage convictions (N-S/Munger)
The legal team for three Plowshares protesters has filed an appeal with the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, challenging their convictions on a sabotage charge for breaking into the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge and taking action — such as splashing a wall of the uranium storehouse with human blood — to draw attention to the government’s plan to upgrade its weapons-making capabilities. The protesters were convicted and sentenced on federal felony charges for the July 28, 2012, intrusion. The most serious charge was attempting to injure the national defense, which falls under the Sabotage Act and carries stiff penalties.

Tennessee leads nation in growth of farmers markets (Times Free-Press/Green)
Farmers markets are growing and spreading in Tennessee faster than anywhere else in the country, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the past year, 20 farmers markets opened in Tennessee, boosting the state’s count from 99 to 119. Within 50 miles of downtown Chattanooga, there are 17 USDA-registered farmers markets, and a handful of Tennessee’s newest additions are within that radius. This year, Athens, Hixson, Manchester and Tullahoma each registered new farmers markets. Tennessee a decade ago was home to only 48 registered farmers markets statewide.

Eight school systems open in Shelby County with few problems (C. Appeal)
Buses ran late and traffic got backed up, but a day that made history in Shelby County public education produced little drama Monday as some 150,000 students raced the opening-day bell at eight school districts, including six new breakaway suburban systems. From the farthest reaches of the county to inner-city Memphis, administrators reported few problems other than those typical for a first day of school in any given year. With a threatened bus strike averted at least temporarily, Shelby County Schools welcomed a projected 117,000 students, while nearly 30,000 were anticipated in six municipal systems and 6,000 in the Achievement School District.

Free Lunch Will Be A Novel Concept In Nashville’s More Affluent Schools (WPLN)
Pizza and hot ham and cheese sandwiches are on the menu for the first day of school in Nashville. And this year, all 85,000 students eat for free thanks to federal taxpayers – even kids in wealthy parts of town who tend to bring a sack lunch from home. Some schools in areas like Green Hills and Forest Hills have as many as 70 or 80 percent of students who don’t even go through the cafeteria line, says Metro Schools nutritional services director Braina Corke. “A ‘high lunchbox school,’ is what we would call it,” Corke says. But the number of lunchboxes is expected to plummet under a new federal program designed for districts with high poverty rates. Everyone eats free. And in order to be reimbursed by the federal government, that means everyone.

 

 

OPINION

Editorial: Shiloh deal yields jobs, momentum (Leaf Chronicle)
Last week’s announcement that an auto industry parts supplier would bring 150 new jobs and an estimated $20 million investment to Clarksville was timely and welcomed news. Shiloh Industries Inc., which produces engineered metal stampings and castings, will be a replacement tenant for the abandoned Contech/Metal Forge factory building in the Clarksville-Montgomery County Corporate Business Park. The county Industrial Development Board approved on Tuesday a nine-year property tax abatement agreement to help facilitate the deal.

Editorial: Children’s health important to all of state (Daily News Journal)
Tennessee recently received some relatively good news in regard to care of its children, but the report noted work remains particularly in regard to medical care for children. In the annual KIDS COUNT assessment, Tennessee increased its ranking from 39th to 36th. The KIDS COUNT Data Center, which is a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, maintains the best available data and statistics on the educational, social, economic and physical well-being of children, according to the foundation. Annually, the assessment evaluates four benchmarks in four different areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

Editorial: Damages add to costs of 2008 coal-ash spill (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
The announcement last week that the Tennessee Valley Authority would pay $27.8 million in damages to people harmed by the Kingston coal ash spill closes another chapter in the 5½-year-old environmental saga. The joint motion for entry of judgment was filed Friday morning in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, ending a legal battle between the federal utility and more than 850 plaintiffs in 63 lawsuits. Technically, the plaintiffs’ claims will be dismissed in exchange for the payments, provided Chief U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Varlan approves. The spill occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 22, 2008, when a dike collapsed at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant, sending 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash sludge into the Emory River and surrounding countryside.