This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Jackson Promise: Goal is 100% of seniors college bound (Jackson Sun)
Working with Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative and the Tennessee Promise, the Jackson-Madison County School System is working with Jackson State Community College to ensure that every graduate goes to college. At an event at Jackson State on Friday, Superintendent Verna Ruffin and JSCC President Bruce Blanding asked the principals and guidance counselors of the five local public high schools to sign on with the Jackson Promise. The Jackson Promise is an initiative to encourage every high school student to sign up for the Tennessee Promise scholarship before or on Sept. 20. As part of the Jackson Promise, Ruffin offered a challenge to her principals to be the first school to have 100 percent of seniors sign up for the scholarship.
Imagination Library Week upcoming in Wilson County (Lebanon Democrat)
Gov. Bill Haslam has proclaimed the third week of September each year as Imagination Library Week in Tennessee. This year’s dates are Sept. 15-20. Dolly Parton started the Imagination Library program in 1996 as a gift to the children in her hometown of Sevierville. Enrolled children receive one new, high-quality, age-appropriate book every month, from birth until age 5 – at no cost to families and regardless of income. In 2004, the non-partisan, nonprofit Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation was created to partner with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Its mission is to support the ongoing, statewide operation of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
Books from Birth 10th Anniversary Tour stops at Neyland Stadium (WVLT-TV)
The State of Tennessee is celebrating the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation’s 10th anniversary with a month long bus tour. The caravan going from Johnson City to Nashville stopped at Neyland Stadium Saturday morning. The organization partners with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to provide every child one free book a month until they reach their fifth birthday, regardless of income. “Children need to hear language, sentence structure, and rhymes. They need to be read to a lot before they get to kindergarten,” says First Lady Crissy Haslam. Bus stop activities included enrolling children and recognizing the work of volunteers and donors.
MTSU’s new science building filled with possibilities (Daily News Journal)
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics will grow 13 percent by 2022, and Robert “Bud” Fischer wants MTSU students to be prepared for them. Dean of the university’s College of Basic and Applied Sciences, Fischer said the new science building is designed to help do just that. The $147 million building opened Aug. 25, a semester earlier than expected. The 257,000 square-foot structure is located where the Wood, Felder, Gore and Clement residence halls once stood. It features 32 teaching laboratories, two open labs, 13 research labs and six lecture halls, along with chemistry and biology faculty and staff offices.
Latest DCS crisis doesn’t surprise experts (Tennessean/Wadhwani, Tamburin)
Less than a week before a mass escape and riots at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center, Tennessee child welfare experts warned of long-standing safety concerns that compromised care at the state’s facilities for juvenile delinquents. The report highlighted failures by the Department of Children’s Services to conduct regular checks on children in juvenile facilities, the poor training of security guards, severe staff shortages, a lack of psychiatric services and the risk — especially in a crisis situation — of being unable to lock children in their rooms. Experts say the crisis situation that emerged just days later at Woodland Hills was easily seen coming.
Money questions slam brakes on Tennessee road (Times-News)
Congress’ inability to pass a long-term funding solution to the Federal Highway Trust Fund is putting the brakes on Tennessee’s roads budget, state Transportation Commissioner John Schroer says. Before Congress passed a $10.8 billion short-term fix to shore up the Federal Highway Trust Fund, Schroer said the Tennessee Department of Transportation delayed action on 13 construction projects carrying a $200 million-plus price tag. All had been scheduled to be under contract this summer. “I can’t run a business without having the consistency of funding,” Schroer said during a recent stop in Kingsport.
State looks for violations at Memphis nail salons (Commercial Appeal/McKenzie)
As the owner of a Memphis nail salon, Lauren Boyd agreed that inspections by state regulators looking for missing name tags or uncovered trash containers can be very detailed. But then, the $500 fine that one Memphis nail outlet received after an inspector found a hot-wax machine at the shop only licensed to provide manicures is an example of why the state regulations are important, Boyd said. And why broader public knowledge of the results of such checkups would help consumers faced with a foaming market of choices. The state lists hundreds of licenses for cosmetology shops, including nail and beauty salons, in Memphis and Shelby County, not including barber shops.
GOP wants AG hopefuls quizzed on ACA support (Times Free-Press/Sher)
Thirteen Republican lawmaker want state Supreme Court justices on Monday to ask candidates for Tennessee attorney general whether they would have joined other states in challenging the Affordable Care Act in 2011. Many of those legislators are among conservatives who tried to unseat three Democratic justices in the Aug. 7 retention election. The effort ultimately flopped, but it became the most expensive judicial election in Tennessee history as outside groups jumped in and spent heavily to oust Justices Sharon Lee, Gary Wade and Connie Clark. Among those wanting the question posed about the Affordable Care Act lawsuit is Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, a leader in the effort to oust the justices.
Shelby Countians under 35 — 24% of population, just 8% of vote (CA/Veazey)
Tashia Wiley turned 18 six months ago, but is not registered to vote. Is she thinking about changing that sometime soon? “Sort of,” she said, smiling, while sitting on a bench at Southwest Tennessee Community College’s campus at lunchtime one day last week. Mario Hurst, 20, pulled white earbuds from his ears when a reporter approached with the same question as he walked between buildings. Yes, he’s registered to vote. And yes, he said, he voted in the most recent Shelby County election. “It’s important,” Hurst said, “because we’ve got a right to.”
Kids work on Tennessee’s tobacco farms with few protections (Tenn/Wadhwani)
Like his big brother before him, Gabino Luna crossed the Mexican border illegally at age 16 and made his way to rural Macon County because he heard there was work to be found in Tennessee’s tobacco fields. Now a compact, muscular and sun-weathered 19-year-old, Luna is working his third harvest, a dawn-to-dusk, six-days-a-week job, his back bent most of the day machete-slicing the long, sticky stalks at their roots, impaling them onto spikes before hanging them from barn rafters to dry. Luna represents the new face of Tennessee’s centuries-old tobacco industry — a teenage migrant worker from Mexico unaccompanied by his parents, forgoing an education and laboring long hours for little pay to produce tobacco for the nation’s big cigarette corporations.
AFL-CIO seeks to unionize Tennessee farmworkers (Tennessean/Wadhwani)
Prompted by concerns about the conditions faced by Tennessee tobacco workers, the farm labor organizing arm of the AFL-CIO is coming to Tennessee later this month and plans a full union membership campaign by next summer. The goal, said Baldemar Velasquez, president and founder of the AFL-CIO’s Farm Labor Organizing Committee, or FLOC, is to help workers navigate complaints, wage issues and disputes with employers or contractors. “We want to offer them a helpline,” Velasquez said. FLOC is targeting four tobacco-growing states, including North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia, to unionize adults and teenage laborers.
Metro to offer ‘full choice’ of high schools (Tennessean/Garrison)
In an admissions overhaul that relies on city buses, Metro Nashville students and parents will be able to choose which high school they attend next year. But it comes with a major caveat: Schools located outside students’ current geographic zones would require open seats for them to get in, likely limiting entry into several. The idea behind the shift is to let school programs lure students. That could include career-based tracks through the system’s Academies — perhaps a student is drawn to engineering at Overton High School or music business at Pearl-Cohn. Or it might include advanced academic programs such as International Baccalaureate, which is offered only at Hillsboro, Hunters Lane and potentially Antioch in a few years.
Virginia: Governor to announce health care coverage plans Monday (A. Press)
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is set to unveil his plan to increase health care coverage for the state’s poor. The Democratic governor will speak publicly Monday on his plans for health care expansion. The governor unsuccessfully tried to persuade Republican lawmakers to expand Medicaid during this year’s legislative session. The impasse led to a protracted stalemate over the state budget that ended with a GOP victory. In June, McAuliffe ordered Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. William A. Hazel Jr. to present a plan no later than Sept. 1 on options the governor can exercise to expand health care coverage for low-income Virginians. Republicans have said the governor does not have the legal authority to expand Medicaid unilaterally.
Editorial: Hardline politics is destroying our country (Jackson Sun)
Gov. Bill Haslam is a traitor to the Republican Party because some of his supporters backed efforts in primary elections to unseat incumbent Republican state legislators. That’s what state Rep. Rick Womick of Murfreesboro says, anyway. Let us go on the record here saying definitively: That is absolutely ridiculous. For one thing, the article on Womick’s comments we saw by The Associated Press presented no evidence that Haslam had any hand in directing what his supporters did. Either way, Womick appears hypocritical because he supported the primary opponent of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a senior statesman in our country and one of the most respected Republican leaders in our state.
Editorial: Taking youths too lightly (Tennessean)
There is apparent calm at the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center at this moment. Apparent, because Department of Children’s Services officials seemed to think there was calm on Wednesday, after Monday night’s breakout by 32 of the center’s 78 kids. Then late Wednesday night, a riot broke out. No additional staff were on hand despite the breakout being only 48 hours old. Two guards were injured as teens rampaged around the grounds of the facility, this time unable to breach the perimeter fence. It took Department of Correction and Highway Patrol personnel in riot gear to end the melee early Thursday morning.
Free-Press Editorial: Testing rape kits offers solid results (Times Free-Press)
Every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States, according to Endthebacklog, a program of the New York-based Joyful Heart Foundation. Although 60 percent of rapes are never reported, when the evidence of a sexual assault is collected at a hospital or rape crisis center, it is collected in a sexual assault evidence kit or sexual assault forensic exam kit, often called a rape kit. When a rape kit is tested, the DNA evidence contained therein may be able to identify an unknown assailant or confirm the presence of a known suspect. It also may confirm or deny the victim’s statements.
Editorial: Process to pick attorney general should be open (News-Sentinel)
Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee has said the justices will be “as open as we can be” in the selection of an attorney general. We hope that openness will be a central point of the process, not merely a minimum standard. Lee is the new chief justice, having replaced Justice Gary Wade in the position shortly after a retention vote favored keeping the two and Justice Cornelia Clark on the high court. Lee, Wade and Clark were appointed by former governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat. They are joined on the bench for their new terms by Jeff Bivins and Holly Kirby, appointees of current Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican.
Columnist: Alexander should debate Ball in Senate race (Tennessean)
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander might not debate his Democratic opponent this fall. He should. Gordon Ball, the Democratic nominee, has challenged Alexander, the second-term Republican, to a series of debates before the Nov. 4 general election. Alexander hasn’t exactly jumped at the chance, but he hasn’t totally ruled it out, either. “There’ll be plenty of opportunities for people to see the differences between my opponent, who will be one more vote for the Obama agenda, and me, which is one more vote for a new Republican majority to move the country in a different direction,” he said Wednesday. “How we do that, we’ll have to see.”
Columnist: Why did Tracy lose election? (Daily News Journal)
I’ve had numerous people the past month ask me how Jim Tracy could have lost by 38 votes against U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in the Republican primary Aug. 7. Given all these questions about Tracy’s loss, I decided to take on that as my “Stump Scott” response for this week as DesJarlais runs in the Nov. 4 general election against Democrat Lenda Sherrell of Monteagle and independent Robert Rankin Doggart of Signal Mountain. So in my political, unscientific opinion, state Sen. Tracy should have focused on a campaign that DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson said was the strategy of the incumbent: run on your record and not from your record.