This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Governor discusses education, economic challenges (News-Sentinel/Fowler)
Steering Tennessee’s ship of state through an ever narrowing financial channel is perhaps the biggest ongoing challenge he faces, Gov. Bill Haslam told members of the East Tennessee Economic Council Friday. Haslam said the state’s version of Medicaid, or TennCare, consumes 31 percent of the state’s budget, and health care costs are rising 6 to 8 percent annually while revenue is only increasing 2 to 3 percent a year. “We’re shaving the side of the boat to get through the canal,” he said of the state’s increasing fiscal constraints.
Community thanked for new OR Roane State building (News-Sentinel/Fowler)
Tennessee was still reeling from the aftereffects of the Great Recession, and money was tight. The community had raised $2.5 million — even in the teeth of that drastic economic downturn — as its required match for a much-needed new building on the Oak Ridge campus of Roane State Community College. But state representatives had cut the state’s share of that project from the proposed budget, according to former lawmaker David Coffey. That’s when State Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, stepped in, Coffey recalled of behind-the-scenes talks from several budget cycles ago.
Haslam Announces Transportation Grant for Town of Erwin (Times-News)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer announced today the award of a $397,884 transportation alternative grant to the town of Erwin for the Downtown Connector Project. Over the past decade, Erwin has worked to construct a trail that travels five miles through the entire town. Currently, the only way for pedestrians to access downtown Erwin from the trail involves traveling along 2nd Street, which has heavy amounts of vehicle traffic and no sidewalks. The Downtown Connector Project will add nearly 4,000 linear feet of new sidewalks and will connect to the trail and beyond to the Unicoi County High School sports complex.
Haslam, Hagerty announce Federal-Mogul to expand operations (C. Chronicle)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with Federal-Mogul officials announced today the company will invest $6.2 million to expand its current distribution facility in Smyrna, Tennessee and create 135 new jobs in Rutherford County. “We are thankful for Federal-Mogul and their continued investment in our state and the new jobs they are creating in Middle Tennessee,” Haslam said. “When companies like Federal-Mogul choose to reinvest here, it speaks volumes about our workforce and the quality of Tennessee-made products, and today’s announcement is another step toward our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”
Gov. Haslam announces $5K reward in Franklin murder case (WKRN-TV Nashville)
Gov. Bill Haslam announced Friday that the state will offer a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who murdered a restaurant worker in 1991. Forty-nine year old Peggy Beurlein Cox, a widowed mother of three, was working at a Hardee’s restaurant in Franklin when the attack happened on her birthday. According to a receipt from that night, she took an order at the drive-thru window at 11:45 p.m. Her son Jude, who also worked at the restaurant, said he heard a male voice place an order over the intercom. As he prepared the meal, he saw his mother quickly back away from the drive-thru window and then heard two gunshots. Jude raced to his mother’s side while another employee called 911.
Governor Haslam addresses violent teen outbreaks at DCS (WATE-TV Knoxville)
It’s been a violent week at Nashville’s Woodland Hills Youth Development Center. Within days, dozens of teen offenders have broken out of their rooms. Many, even escaping the facility. Video from Wednesday shows the teens kicking through metal panels, breaking into the yard, with sticks in hand and spraying a fire extinguisher. The facility’s unarmed guards are basically powerless to stop them. “We’ve put our guards there in a very difficult position, where you can’t lock people in their rooms and they’re unarmed and can’t use any force in any kind of way,” said Governor Bill Haslam.
Northeast State will offer 2-year aviation program (Times-News)
Those interested in a career in aviation may want to take a look at a new two-year program that started this fall at Northeast State Community College. The program, which will offer additional classes come spring 2015, came about through the Northeast Tennessee Aviation Education Initiative. Hank Somers, a co-founder of the initiative, presented detailed information about the program to the Tri-Cities Airport Authority this week. Somers along with co-founders state Rep. Tony Shipley and Richard Blevins of Bell Helicopter began the planning process for the initiative last July.
Books From Birth bus tour stops at mall on Sept. 11 (Leaf Chronicle)
The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) launched its “Books from Birth 10th Anniversary Tour” on August 26 in Johnson County and it will conclude at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville on September 30, visiting some 50 counties across the state in a forty-five foot decorated touring coach. The tour bus will visit Clarksville at the Food Court entrance to Governor’s Square Mall on Thursday, September 11th from 12:30 to 2pm. A story time for children and face painting will be provided along with giveaways and other activities at the stop. Remarks will be given by Mayor Jim Durrett.
Lottery winner could stay on TennCare (Tennessean/Wilemon)
People could win the lottery and stay on TennCare because the state has no way to identify them and kick them off. Michael Kirk, a lawyer for TennCare, acknowledged that’s the case when a federal judge asked about such a scenario. Although it’s unlikely that a Powerball millionaire is getting Medicaid coverage in Tennessee, people who no longer qualify for the state’s health insurance for the poor get to stay on the rolls. That’s happening because of delays with a $35.7 million computer system that also has made TennCare a defendant in a class-action lawsuit filed by people who need coverage but can’t get their applications processed.
State board to meet on Sumner property assessments (Tennessean/Lee)
Nearly 25,000 Sumner County property owners will learn next week if they can expect to receive yet another reappraisal notice in the mail. The State Board of Equalization will meet on Friday, Sept. 12 to consider the recommendation of the state’s Comptroller of the Treasury to rescind assessment changes made over the summer by either Assessor of Property John Isbell’s office or the county board of equalization to more than a third of the county’s 72,300 parcels. After essentially rejecting a certified tax rate of $2.0807 proposed by Isbell in June, county leaders asked the state’s Division of Property Assessments to review the procedures and results of the 2014 Sumner County reappraisal program.
Hamilton County Woman Charged With TennCare Fraud (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)
A Hamilton County woman is charged with TennCare fraud involving “doctor shopping,” or using TennCare to go to multiple doctors in a short time period to obtain controlled substances. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with assistance from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, announced the arrest of Kelli Jeanine Bush, also known as Kelli J. Forrester, 34, of Harrison, on Friday. She is charged with six counts of fraudulently using TennCare to obtain controlled substances by doctor shopping as well as six counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and one count of forgery.
Norris: Attack on Supremes leaves ‘bad taste’ for constitutional amendment (NP)
The lieutenant governor’s right-hand man said last month’s heated fight to unseat three Democrat-appointed Supreme Court justices has likely shot Amendment 2 in the foot. Aggressive advertising aimed at unseating the high court justices in the August primary election hurt both those who wanted to push out the justices and those urging voters to constitutionalize much of the state’s method of selecting them, he said. “If you get an ad that says, ‘Oh, we don’t want this in Tennessee,’ when that’s exactly a plateful of what we were just served, that can backfire,” said Sen. Mark Norris, the Republican majority leader.
TV advertising in U.S. Senate race cost $3.4 million (News-Sentinel/Collins)
If you felt like you were bombarded with campaign commercials during this year’s U.S. Senate primary, there’s a good reason: You were. More than 8,100 Senate campaign ads — 6,190 ads by the candidates and parties and 1,953 ads by groups interested in the race — had aired on television stations across Tennessee by August, according to an analysis by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity. The cost: $3.4 million, or 72 cents for every eligible voter in the state. “That’s a lot of ads,” especially for a seat considered relatively safe for the incumbent, said Anthony Nownes, a political scientist at the University of Tennessee.
Education secretary to read to Chattanooga area kids Tuesday (TFP/Omarzu)
Kisha Fifer teaches at Chambliss Center for Children, where she gets 3- and 4-year-olds ready for kindergarten — also known as “big school.” On Tuesday, Fifer will get some help from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, who’ll read children’s stories to Fifer’s students. “[Duncan] is going to read ‘Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed’ with an iPad,” Chambliss Center spokeswoman Gloria Miller said. “Then Mayor Berke is going to read ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear [What Do You See?]’ on an iPad.” Duncan, who’s making stops in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee on his fifth annual “back-to-school” bus tour, also will hold a 6 p.m. town hall meeting on early learning in the Chambliss Center’s gymnasium.
More security woes at Y-12; federal boss cites failures, orders review (N-S/Munger)
An unusually stern letter from a federal official to the government’s contractor at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant reveals a string of security and safety problems that had not been publicly disclosed and cites the abnormal events as evidence of an “undercurrent of complacency” at the Oak Ridge plant. The Aug. 11 letter, titled “Concerns with Y-12 Operational Discipline,” was written by Steve Erhart, the National Nuclear Security Administration manager who oversees Y-12 and Pantex, its sister nuclear facility in Texas. The letter was sent to Jim Haynes, the president and CEO of CNS, the Bechtel-led contractor that took over management of both plants on July 1. The News Sentinel obtained a copy of the three-page letter.