This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Free college! Tennessee Promise deadline set for seniors (Birmingham News)
As if the state’s lack of a state income tax wasn’t already incentive enough to move to the green hills of Tennessee, the state is rolling out Tennessee Promise, a program that offers tuition-free community college or trade school for up to two years for all Tennessee high school graduates. Yes, for everyone who manages to get a high school diploma. Members of the Class of 2015 in Tennessee schools have to sign up to enter the program. Deadline for signing up is Nov. 1, 2014. Information is posted at www.TNpromise.gov. “The Tennessee Promise makes a strong statement to our students and their families that education beyond high school is a priority for our state,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in a statement released today, Aug. 29, 2014.
Tennessee Promise opens local chapter (Rhea County News)
Gov. Bill Haslam’s vision to provide a tuition-free opportunity for every Tennessee student to earn a college credential is now a reality beginning with students graduating high school from the Class of 2015. Rhea County Executive George Thacker has designated tnAchieves to serve as the local partnering organization to help organize and support Tennessee Promise locally. Tennessee Promise offers two years of tuition-free community or technical college to Tennessee high school graduates beginning with the Class of 2015. “Tennessee Promise and its impact on our students, families and communities can be a real game-changer, as we prepare more of our students for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” said Thacker.
Haslam Announces David Purkey As TEMA Director (WZTZ-TV Nashville)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Friday the appointment of David W. Purkey as a deputy commissioner of the Military Department where he will direct the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). Purkey has served as interim director of TEMA since the April retirement of Jim Bassham. He will also continue to serve as the governor’s Homeland Security advisor and assistant commissioner for the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. “David has extensive experience in emergency management and safety, and he knows how critical it is for state and local governments to cooperate during emergencies,” Haslam said. “I appreciate his continued dedication and willingness to serve his fellow Tennesseans.”
Haslam names new TEMA director (WBBJ-TV Johnson City)
Governor Bill Haslam has announced David Purkey will serve as the new director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, according to a release. Purkey has served as interim director of the organization since the April retirement of Jim Bassham. “David has extensive experience in emergency management and safety, and he knows how critical it is for state and local governments to cooperate during emergencies,” Haslam said in the release. Purkey also will continue to serve as the governor’s Homeland Security adviser. He earned his master’s degree in public health in 1987 from the University of Tennessee.
Common Core standards continue to bring debate (Daily News Journal)
Tennessee is continuing to implement Common Core standards, but the political debate about the standards is continuing on the national, state and local levels. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal this week sued the federal government over the implementation of the Common Care standards, charging that the U.S. Department of Education illegally manipulated federal grants and regulations to force states to adopt the standards. “The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative,” Jindal said in a statement. “Common Core is the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C., in control of everything.”
Prescription Abuse Unseats Alcohol As Tennessee’s Top Drug Problem (WPLN)
For the first time in Tennessee, more people are heading to rehab for prescription pain killers than for alcohol abuse. Data from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services finds admissions for drugs like hydrocodone have spiked 500 percent in the last decade. Commissioner Doug Varney says the figure surpasses those getting publicly funded assistance for treatment of alcoholism. He says, however, eight times as many people are estimated to need treatment. Varney is using the increase to advocate for more funding for treatment.
TDOT stops most road construction for Labor Day weekend (Tennessean/Wilson)
The Tennessee Department of Transportation stopped all road construction involving lane closures on Friday in advance of Labor Day weekend. TDOT crews halted their work on the state’s highways and interstates at noon Friday and will not resume until 6 a.m. Tuesday. “We want to ensure that the thousands of travelers using Tennessee’s roadways during this period arrive at their destinations quickly and safely without being impeded by road construction delays,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. Workers will still be at some of the construction sites even while all lanes are reopened, according to a TDOT release.
Plaintiffs await class-action decision in TennCare suit (Tennessean/Wilemon)
The attorney for TennCare blamed the federal insurance exchange for Tennessee’s delays processing Medicaid applications, but lawyers representing people who got lost in the system said during court testimony Friday that the state created its own problems . After listening to almost three hours of arguments, U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell said he expects to make a decision next week on three important motions that will largely determine whether a federal lawsuit against TennCare moves forward. The dispute centers on TennCare’s decision to stop staffing state offices with personnel who helped people fill out Medicaid applications that went directly to the state agency and, instead, require everybody to apply through HealthCare.gov, the federal health exchange.
Judge to rule next week on TennCare lawsuit (Times Free-Press/Sher)
A federal judge plans to rule next week in a lawsuit seeking class-action status for would-be TennCare enrollees who charge Tennessee officials delayed processing their Medicaid applications for months despite requirements of the federal health care law. U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell of Nashville made the announcement Friday following three hours of sometimes heated arguments by attorneys for the would-be enrollees and the state. Campbell will rule on the request for class-action status as well as plaintiffs’ request for an injunction. The injunction would force the state’s Tenn-Care Bureau to follow the 45-day limit on processing applications in order to get people signed up more quickly for health coverage.
8 apply to become Tennessee attorney general (Associated Press/Schelzig)
Eight candidates submitted applications with the Tennessee Supreme Court by Friday’s deadline to be considered for the next eight-year term as state attorney general. Tennessee is the only state where the high court appoints the attorney general. The justices will make their choice after public hearings with finalists. Incumbent Attorney General Bob Cooper, 57, whose term expires at the end of the month, is among those who have applied for the job. Others include Gov. Bill Haslam’s top legal adviser, Herbert Slatery, 62; Republican state Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville, 59; and courts administrator Bill Young, 57.
Gov. Haslam’s Medicaid talk draws GOP criticism (Associated Press/Schelzig)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s suggestion this week that he may soon submit a proposal for Medicaid expansion in Tennessee received some blowback from a fellow Republican leader in the Legislature on Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, issued a statement to question the Republican governor’s suggestion that a proposal could crafted by this fall. “It seems the governor is not very serious about whatever he has in mind regarding Medicaid expansion, because he hasn’t conferred with the General Assembly,” Norris said. State lawmakers earlier this year passed a bill to require the governor to obtain legislative approval before he can expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Legislature divided on Haslam’s Medicaid expansion push (Tennessean/Rau)
Republican leaders expressed pessimism on Friday that any plan crafted by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration to expand Medicaid in Tennessee could win legislative approval. Haslam told reporters on Thursday that he intends to submit a proposal to expand TennCare. The expansion would be paid for with federal funds under the federal Affordable Care Act, which allows states to provide health care to those who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to receive tax credits to help them buy coverage on HealthCare.gov. About 162,000 people fall into that gap, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. State Democrats expressed optimism after Haslam’s comments that he would soon offer an expansion proposal.
TVA makes $4.5 billion bet on nuclear resurgence (Tennessean/Gang)
One of the keys to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s efforts to meet strict new rules for reducing greenhouse gas emissions lies behind walls more than a foot thick and beneath more than a half-million pounds of metal. The walls form a massive concrete containment building at the Watts Bar nuclear power plant, where workers this summer have been putting the finishing touches on the utility’s latest reactor — a signal that a federal agency that once bet heavily on atomic energy is coming back to the nuclear table. That signal is reinforced by new EPA rules for reducing emissions and by the utility’s continued efforts to have a broad mix of energy sources.
Casteel: VW will recognize UAW: It’s coming, union official says (TFP/Pare)
A top United Auto Workers official said Friday that he’s confident Volkswagen will recognize Chattanooga Local 42 by bargaining with it as a members’ union. “In the U.S. system, if you’re dealing with an entity, you’ve recognized it,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel. But an anti-UAW employee at the VW plant predicted a new election pitting the UAW against an independent union trying to organize factory workers. “We’re going to beat [the UAW] and escort them outside the plant,” said Mike Burton. “It’s a showdown. The loser moves on and leaves the plant.” Casteel, in a meeting with Times Free Press editors and reporters, said he thinks VW will bargain with Local 42 “over things that pertain to those members.”
Columnist: Imagining Successful Schools (Wall Street Journal)
What should teacher accountability look like? We know what the current system of accountability looks like, and it’s not pretty. Ever since the passage of No Child Left Behind 12 years ago, teachers have been judged, far too simplistically, based on standardized tests given to their students — tests, as Marc S. Tucker points out in a new report, Fixing Our National Accountability System, that are used to decide which teachers should get to keep their jobs and which should be fired. This system has infuriated and shamed teachers, and is a lot of the reason that teacher turnover is so high, causing even many of the best teachers to abandon the ranks. All of which might be worth it if this form of accountability truly meant that public school students were getting a better education. But, writes Tucker, “There is no evidence that it is contributing anything to improved student performance.”