This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Haslam announces Claiborne added to June flooding disaster (Clairborne Progress)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that five counties have been added to the federal disaster declaration after severe weather on June 5-10. A total of 23 counties are now included in the disaster. State and local governments and electrical utilities spent nearly $10 million in response to, and recovery from, the wind damage and flash-flooding impacts. Claiborne, Gibson, Giles, Haywood and Weakley counties have been determined to be adversely affected and qualified for federal assistance to local governments.
Haslam Adds 5 Counties to Disaster Declaration from June Severe Weather (WGO)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced on Thursday that five more counties have been added to a federal disaster declaration related to the severe weather from early June. The new additions bring the total number of counties affected by the weather to 23. The declaration makes those counties eligible for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.According to the Governor’s Office, state and local governments and electrical utilities spent almost $10 million in response and recovery efforts. Between June 5 and 10, severe storms, including two tornadoes, caused flooding and three deaths.
Haslam to cut ribbon Friday on new Roane State building (News-Sentinel)
Gov. Bill Haslam will be the special guest speaker at the dedication and ribbon-cutting Friday morning for the $13.8 million Goff Health Sciences and Technology Building at the Oak Ridge campus of Roane State Community College. Former Roane State President Dr. Gary Goff, for whom the building is named, will also speak at the 8:30 a.m. event. The 64,000-square-foot building is off Briarcliff Avenue. Local officials will also be joined by Dr. Warren Nichols, vice chancellor of community colleges for the Tennessee Board of Regents.
New Roane St. building has health science labs, high-tech classrooms (OR Today)
This new $13.8 million building at Roane State Community College mixes high-tech amenities with new teaching techniques, and it eases overcrowding at the Oak Ridge campus. It adds space for health science classes and programs such as surgical technology, organic chemistry, and pharmacy technician students. It also incorporates environmentally friendly design features such as a reflective white roof, lights that adjust automatically, geothermal wells that help heat and cool the building, and rain gardens that capture storm water runoff. The high-tech amenities include “smart dummies” that can be programmed with symptoms to train nursing students, full multimedia and wireless systems in classrooms, and more than 300 computers, including in five computer labs.
Here’s why Warby Parker could be a game-changer for Nashville (N. Biz Journal)
The Haslam and Dean administrations haven’t been short on big-name corporate expansion announcements in the greater Nashville area over the past year: UBS, AIG, ServiceSource, GM, and Beretta, to name a few. But two announcements stand out: San Francisco-based Eventbrite and New York-based Warby Parker. The former has already opened a corporate office in Nashville and the latter will soon. They are also the two expansions I’m asked about most frequently, and one was just confirmed Wednesday. What’s the big deal? Aside from the obvious – both are consumer-facing, well-known to millennials everywhere and, quite simply, “cool” – they are also both start-up success stories in industries where Nashville is looking to gain ground: tech and fashion.
Fulton Bellows announces $3M expansion, 27 new jobs (News-Sentinel/Marcum)
Fulton Bellows LLC has acquired a competitor and is integrating those assets into its Knoxville operation, resulting in a $3 million investment and creation of about 27 jobs, Fulton Bellows President and CEO Bryon Joganich said Thursday. Equipment and other assets from Massachusetts-based Cliflex Bellows Corp. are being brought from South Boston to the Fulton Bellows plant in Forks of the River Industrial Park, Joganich said. Several people from Cliflex are relocating to work at the Knoxville operation and Fulton Bellows will be hiring additional people over the next few years, for a total of about 27, Joganich said.
Magna Starts Construction Near Tennessee GM Plant (Associated Press)
Seat maker Magna International Inc. says it has begun constructing a new supplier facility near the General Motors plant in Spring Hill. The new 122,500-square-foot Magna facility with become the Troy, Michigan-based company’s fifth in Tennessee. It is expected to employ about 75 people when it begins making seat assemblies next year. Last year GM announced plans to invest $350 million in the Tennessee assembly plant to build two future midsize vehicles. The plant already builds several small gasoline engines plus the Chevrolet Equinox midsize SUV. The company revealed last week that it is moving production of its next-generation Cadillac SRX crossover SUV from Mexico to the Tennessee facility that began as a Saturn plant in 1990.
Roane State, ORNL Federal CU partner on new degree program (CA/Harrington)
A new two-year associate degree in financial services is now being offered by Roane State Community College. The program, developed in partnership with ORNL Federal Credit Union, is designed for students interested in the financial services business sector or current employees who want to further their professional development within the industry. “Many banks and credit unions in particular have great employees, but they may not have much educational background in financial services so they do a lot of learning on the job. What we’re attempting to do is to create a foundation that would be very helpful not only to credit unions but to banks and insurance companies,” Roane State President Chris Whaley said.
Governor Haslam recognizes Pellissippi State’s 40th anniversary (WATE-TV Knox)
Pellissippi State Community College celebrated 40 years on Thursday. Governor Bill Haslam proclaimed September 4 as ‘Pellissippi State 40th Anniversary Day.’ Pellissippi State’s president said it was a huge honor for the governor to recognize the college’s history. “We’re honored that the governor recognizes Pellissippi State’s legacy in education and are proud that he is celebrating our anniversary with us,” said L. Anthony Wise Jr., Pellissippi State President. Pellissippi State was founded in 1974 and had an inaugural class of 45 students. Today Pellissippi State has more than 10,000 students across campuses in Knox and Blount counties.
DCS OKs extra guards, non-lethal force (TN/Tamburin, Wahdwani, Wilson)
An 18-member strike force team with the Department of Correction will assist in providing security at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center tonight following a night of violence at the lockup for teen offenders. And — unlike the current security guards working at the center — the strike force team is authorized to use non-lethal force, including stun guns, on the young offenders, if necessary. Hours of riots erupted at the Department of Children’s Services facility late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning. The riots came on the heels of a mass escape of 32 teens from the facility — almost half its population — Monday night.
Ex-Knox teacher was on paid leave for more than 1 year (News-Sentinel/McCoy)
A former Knox County Schools teacher was put on administrative leave with pay for more than a year while she was investigated by the Department of Children’s Services over allegations she left a 3-year-old student unsupervised. DCS ruled that Julia Detiveaux did neglect the student from lack of supervision, but after a lengthy legal battle that ended in 2012 — according to court records and documents in her personnel file — Chancery Court reversed the agency’s finding. “She had this finding of ‘indicated’ and she’s a teacher and she couldn’t be around children any more so she was going to lose her job,” said Andy Fox, Detiveaux’s attorney, said Thursday. “Ultimately, the final decision was this lady did not neglect a child. That needs to be understood.”
Museum seeking images of Tennessee communities (Associated Press)
The Tennessee State Museum wants photographs of communities across the state and is asking Tennessee residents to submit pictures to be placed on display next month. The museum says it’s only accepting digital images. It plans to display them as part of an exhibition celebrating the photographic documentation of LaFollette. Images selected will be displayed in conjunction with an exhibit called “Eyes On LaFollette,” which showcases 20 years of student photojournalists documenting the historic community. Submit entries by 5 p.m. Sept. 19. Photos may be submitted by emailing the photo, a completed entry form and model release form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Supreme Court faces controversy again over AG selection (CA/Locker)
Only a month after its most seriously contested retention election ever, the Tennessee Supreme Court faces more controversy — over the selection of the state attorney general for a new eight-year term. The court announced this week that it will conduct its interviews of the eight applicants for attorney general in an open public hearing on Monday, when candidates will make their cases for the $177,000-a-year post and members of the public can express their views about them. But the court did not say whether it will deliberate and vote on the selection in public. “The public will have input, and we will have public interviews of all applicants on Monday,” Chief Justice Sharon Lee said Wednesday night during a speech to the Knoxville Bar Association. But how the selection process unfolds from there — and how much of the decision-making may remain behind closed doors — has yet to be decided, she told the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
Supreme Court hears faith healing case involving teen’s cancer death (AP/Loller)
An East Tennessee woman convicted of child neglect in her teenage daughter’s cancer death is asking the state Supreme Court to declare that she is innocent because she relied on prayer to heal the girl. Jacqueline Crank was sentenced to unsupervised probation after her 15-year-old daughter died of Ewing’s sarcoma in 2002. Despite the light sentence, Crank has continued to pursue the case, arguing that faith-healing should be legal for everyone. The Tennessee Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case in Knoxville on Thursday. State law makes it a crime to fail to provide medical care to children, but there is an exception for those who rely on prayer alone for healing.
Reopen Taft, 3 lawmakers say (Associated Press, Chattanooga Times Free-Press)
Three state lawmakers are urging the Haslam administration to consider reopening Taft Youth Development Center near Pikeville after mass escapes and a riot by teenage felons at a less secure facility in the middle of Nashville. At the same time, the Tennessee State Employees Association is laying the problem at the feet of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, citing cuts he’s made in the Department of Children’s Services. On Monday night, 32 teens escaped from the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center. Just two days later, two dozen detainees broke into the yard wielding sticks and spraying a fire extinguisher.
House Dems: Escape direct result of shrinking state government (WKRN-TV)
Tennessee House Democrat leaders say this week’s violence and escapes at Nashville’s Woodland Hills facility for juvenile offenders is a direct result of budget cuts and a shrinking state government, but the Haslam administration says its numbers for the department overseeing the facility are different. House Democrat leader Craig Fitzhugh pointed to a 40 percent budget reduction for the Department of Children Services (DCS) since Republican Governor Bill Haslam took office. He told News 2 the DCS budget has gone from $66 million in 2009-2010, which was the last year of the previous Governor Phil Bredesen, to $39.2 million for the current fiscal year under Governor Haslam.
Lawmakers call for action after Woodland Hills violence (WSMV-TV Nashville)
Tennessee lawmakers are calling for action after seeing exclusive surveillance videos obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team of what was happening inside the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center prior to this week’s escapes. State Reps. Craig Fitzhugh and Sherry Jones said they’re disturbed by what the I-Team uncovered. “There’s no oversight,” Fitzhugh said. “We have to have some type of oversight.” The video, obtained by a source, was recorded earlier this year at Woodland Hills. It shows what appears to be an impromptu party, dancing, fights between students, back flips off tables, and even a chain reaction of chair throwing by the juvenile offenders. Some of this occurred with just one female guard in the room.
Lawmakers Trace Escape, Riots To Closure Of Taft Youth Center (WPLN-Radio)
Three state lawmakers have written a letter to Department of Children Services Commissioner Jim Henry, imploring him to reopen the Taft Youth Development Center, a detention facility for the state’s most violent teenagers that closed in 2012. The letter follows recent violent episodes at Nashville’s Woodland Hills Youth Development Center. On Monday night, thirty-two inmates escaped the facility, six of whom are still at large. A small riot Wednesday included inmates brandishing pipes and spraying fire extinguishers. Authorities responded with police helicopters and officers from the Tennessee Highway patrol, who eventually quelled the uproar.
Doctors waiting for Medicaid expansion (Memphis Business Journal)
After more than a year of refusing to accept federal money to expand Medicaid in the state of Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam is moving forward with a plan to do just that. And the change could be greeted warmly by doctors around the state, especially in Memphis. Haslam’s initial refusal to expand Medicaid, or TennCare, the state’s version of it, has reportedly kept 162,00 to 234,000 people across the state from access to health care insurance, according to estimates from The Urban Institute. Tennessee is one of several states across the U.S. that refused more than $5 billion in federal funds for Medicaid expansion that was made available when the Affordable Care Act was passed.
Shelby County election candidates claim fraud (Associated Press)
Candidates who lost in Shelby County races in last month’s election are suing election officials, alleging fraud. The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/1wb4tyE ) reports that nine candidates have filed suit against the Shelby County Election Commission, seeking a recount or the setting aside of results. Filed Tuesday, the lawsuit alleges that the election commission, specifically the three Republican members of the five-member commission, prevented the candidates “and the voters of Shelby County Tennessee a free and unimpaired exercise of their franchise.”
Nine Losing Candidates Challenge August Vote (Memphis Daily News)
Nine losing candidates from the August elections are contesting the results in a Shelby County Chancery Court lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed Sept. 2 by Democratic candidates Joe Brown, Henri Brooks and Wanda Halbert; judicial candidates Mozella Ross, Kim Sims, Kenya Brooks, J. Nathan Toney and Alicia Howard; and Doris Deberry-Bradshaw, who ran in a state House Democratic primary. It was filed earlier in General Sessions Court before the new filing in Chancery Court. The lawsuit, filed pro se by Brown and Ross against the Shelby County Election Commission, seeks “a vote recount and/or the setting aside of the election results as they are individually affected and a declaration declaring them to have won the election.”
Affordable Housing Officials Push Back Against New Tax (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
Tax officials across Tennessee have begun sending developers of affordable housing properties higher tax bills. It’s based on a way of evaluating properties for low-income residents that is becoming increasingly widespread, and housing advocates and developers say if it doesn’t change, private builders might completely pull out of subsidized housing. Developers get money from the federal government in the form of tax credits to make it financially viable to build low-income housing. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco has called the program “the single most important form of federal assistance to preserve and expand the supply of affordable rental housing for low-income households.”
TN lifts development moratorium in White Bluff (Dickson Herald)
White Bluff is poised for significant growth now that a limited restriction on development has been lifted. Mayor Linda Hayes announced during Tuesday’s regular municipal meeting that state officials recently “lifted” the town’s self-imposed moratorium on residential and commercial development, due to overflow problems with the town’s wastewater system. “Now development, I can assure you, will begin,” Hayes said. Councilperson Dan Clark noted, “That’s great news.” Hayes commended the efforts of Public Works Director Jeff Martin and Ken Stewart, an engineer with Gresham Smith and Partners, in getting the moratorium removed.
Tennessee flunks in study of gender employment equality (Memphis Biz Journal)
The status of working women is weakest in the South, according to a recent study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The study analyzed states based on U.S. Census data including percent of women in the labor force, percent of women in managerial or professional occupations, median annual earnings for full-time employed women, and the full-time earnings ratio between men and women. In the study, values for the four components were set to an ideal score of equal distribution between men and women. States received a letter grade and a ranking based on how they compared to the ideal score.
Entire Congressional Delegation Invited To Tour Charter Schools (WPLN-Radio)
One charter school advocacy group is offering tours to Tennessee’s Congressional delegation, even though most of their districts don’t have any charters. Gallatin Republican Diane Black accepted the invitation from the Tennessee Charter School Center. On her visit to STEM Prep Academy in Nashville, Black says she walked the halls, peeked into classrooms and chatted with a pair of seventh graders. “I think charter schools have a future. I don’t think there’s a one size fits all. And for some children, that’s the appropriate place for them to be.” But Representative Black is unsure if charters will ever become an option in the sixth district.
U.S. education secretary to visit Chattanooga (Times Free-Press/Hardy)
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will travel to Chattanooga next week as part of his fifth annual Back-to-School Bus Tour. The U.S. Department of Education announced today that Duncan’s “Partners in Progress” trip will include stops in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, all of which will highlight the states’ commitment to educational reform and innovation. Duncan will travel to Chattanooga on Tuesday, though details of his stop here haven’t been released. On Monday, First Lady Michelle Obama will meet Duncan at Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington High School, which opened in 1924 as the first public high school for blacks in Georgia. It counts Dr. Martin L. King Jr. among its graduates.
DOE to investigate ‘security event’ at Y-12 plant (News-Sentinel/Munger)
The U.S. Department of Energy has notified the contractor at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge that it plans to investigate a possible security breach and release of classified information. There were no details of the breach immediately available, and a plant spokesman said he couldn’t comment on the situation. The Sept. 3 letter was sent to Jim Haynes, the president of Consolidated Nuclear Security, the managing contractor at Y-12. But it notes that the “security event” was discovered in June — before CNS replaced B&W Y-12 as contractor on July 1. Therefore, the same notice is being sent to B&W, DOE said.
Bridgestone may move HQ to downtown Nashville (Tennessean/Ward)
Tire maker Bridgestone Americas is exploring moving its corporate headquarters from the airport area to downtown Nashville. The U.S. subsidiary of Bridgestone Corp. is said to be looking for 400,000 square feet of space in a building to be built to its specifications. That amount of space would be roughly double its current headquarters space at the Highland Ridge Tower on Marriott Drive. A Bridgestone move to downtown involving roughly 1,000 corporate employees would be a significant boost for the city’s central business district. An office high-rise tower planned as part of the redevelopment of the old Nashville Convention Center is among possibilities the Bridgestone Corp. subsidiary is considering, according to people familiar with the effort.
The return of the Nashville Banner? (Nashville Business Journal)
On the same day that The Tennessean enacted another round of cuts to its newsroom, a name from Nashville’s media past surfaced today: the Nashville Banner. TheNashvilleBanner.com quietly went live today. The page currently only features a Twitter stream featuring the handle @nashvillebanner, a “Coming Soon…” note and a comment field. The first comment, from a user known as nashvillebanner, says, “I’m thinking this city needs a truly great daily news publication. Whaddya think?” According to the website’s registration data, the site was created on Aug. 31, and is registered to Bruce Dobie, a former editor of the Nashville Scene and the owner of Dobie Media Inc.
West Virginia: WV state revenue improves but still short (Charleston Daily Mail)
Although state tax collections remain about $18.8 million behind expectations for the year, August proved to be a better month than July for revenue. West Virginia missed anticipated tax collections by about $1.3 million for August, according to a new budget report released today. State budget officials said a delay in one-time money transfers put the state behind $17.4 million to start the financial year, which begins in July. Several transfers in August helped the state significantly outpace expectations for the month from that funding source: “miscellaneous transfers” accounted for nearly $2 million more than anticipated.
Editorial: Haslam admin’s approach to TennCare issues is disappointing (CA)
During his first term as Tennessee governor, there were a lot of accomplishments Bill Haslam and his administration can crow about. His health and higher education initiatives, which should help thousands of Tennesseans improve their lives, easily come to mind. We are disappointed, though, in the way he and some of his administrators have handled the possible expansion of TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor, and the program’s enrollment process. The program’s expansion could help some 180,000 Tennessee residents get the health insurance they need to make their lives better. It seems they have become pawns in a battle between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a Republican governor and the Republican-controlled General Assembly, who do not want to expand TennCare under the stipulations of the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. The delay has delayed the state receiving $1.4 billion to cover the cost.