This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
The Governor of Tennessee Says to Get a Flu Shot (WGNS-Radio Murfreesboro)
Governor Bill Haslam and Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, are stressing the importance of Tennesseans receiving their influenza vaccinations this flu season. OnFriday, September 19, Governor Haslam, and Commissioner Dreyzehner will receive their seasonal flu vaccinations at the Shelby County Health Department in Memphis. Each year on average in the United States, an estimated 5-20 percent of the population can be infected with the flu, and more than 200,000 people may be hospitalized from complications of the illness. Vaccination is the best way to prevent infection with the flu. Immunization against the flu protects not only the person receiving the vaccine but also his or her family, friends and coworkers.
MTSU president part of Sept. 24 TN higher education panel (WGNS-Radio)
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee will be among a group of academic leaders across the state gathering to discuss the state of higher education and the push to produce career-ready graduates. The Nashville Business Journal is hosting the luncheon panel discussion entitled “Nashville Ahead: A discussion on higher education and workforce readiness.” It will be held from 11:50 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, at the Omni Nashville Hotel, 250 5th Ave. S. Joining him will be Joe DiPietro, president of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville; Kimberly Estep, chancellor of Western Governors University Tennessee; and Jerry L. Faulkner, president of Volunteer State Community College.
Bus tour celebrates 10 years of free books for children (Jackson Sun)
A 45-foot tour bus pulled up at the West Tennessee State Fair Saturday to enroll children in a free book program. The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation’s “Books from Birth 10th Anniversary Tour” is celebrating the anniversary of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Tennessee and the more than 20 million books mailed to children since the program began. As part of the celebration, the tour bus will make more than 50 stops around the state. Theresa Carl, president of the foundation, said the goal of the tour was not just to enroll children in the program but also to thank donors and volunteers and to raise awareness about the importance of early reading. Carl said a child’s brain is 80 percent developed by age 3, making early reading crucial.
Potential vendors ask for changes in contract bid process for radios (CA/Locker)
State procurement officials are reviewing their draft requirements for a major new contract for radio equipment in response to suggestions by potential vendors that the draft would exclude most vendors from bidding and thus cost taxpayers money. The state Department of General Services is in the process of awarding a new contract worth millions of dollars for all radio equipment and its maintenance, repairs, parts and accessories purchased by the state over the next five years. The contract allows any city and county government in Tennessee, and some nonprofit agencies, to buy the same products and services at the same prices. Local governments and agencies that want to try to get lower prices have to draft their own specifications and go through their own bidding processes, but vendors say about 80 percent of public-service radios are purchased using state contracts. The state’s procurement process flared briefly into controversy during a conference with potential bidders Sept. 4 when a vendor suggested the current contractor appeared to have drafted some of the procurement documents.
‘Teach-in’ takes on death penalty, judicial system (Tennessean/Cass)
Religious leaders, civil liberties advocates, philosophy students and other opponents of the death penalty and mass incarceration gathered Saturday for a “teach-in” to learn more about the issues and what they can do. The gathering at the Nashville Public Library offered a preview of Monday afternoon, when many of the same people plan to gather at the Capitol at noon for a rally against the state’s execution plans. Carmela Hill-Burke, a graduate student in philosophy at Vanderbilt University, said the group would give Gov. Bill Haslam’s office a letter asking him to halt all executions. Hill-Burke said activists plan to ask the Republican governor to “do a thorough investigation” of execution drug protocols and the possibility that some of the condemned are actually innocent.
When citizens are wronged, local governments pay, to a point (N-S/Satterfield)
The crash made headlines. The financial punch to taxpayers did not. Knox County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Toby Champion unquestionably was speeding, evidenced by just how far he traveled off Cunningham Road and just how much damage he caused. His cruiser slammed through two fences, went in and out of a ditch and struck two vehicles with enough force to push one of them from the garage into the den of the home of Les and Eva Pierce. Champion’s cruiser came to rest inside the garage. The Pierces weren’t hurt in January 2011 but they suffered nonetheless. They were forced out of their North Knox County home for three months. They had to rely on rental cars. The food in their refrigerator spoiled. And, to add insult to injury, another county employee backed into their flower bed, knocking over a wooden wall and solar lights, during repairs to their home.
Some 4,700 more people left Shelby than moved in during 5-year period (CA/Carlier)
Some 4,700 more people left Shelby than moved in during five-year period, census figures show Shelby County lost about 4,700 more people than it gained through domestic migration during the five-year period ending in 2012, with DeSoto and Davidson counties among the main destinations for local residents, new Census Bureau estimates show. A total of 36,452 people moved from Shelby to other counties and states, compared to 31,722 moving in from elsewhere in the U.S., according to the estimates. An additional 3,766 people moved into the county from abroad, but the census estimates don’t contain figures on how many Shelby residents migrated to other countries. Despite the losses to domestic migration, the county’s population has continued to increase, largely as a result of a much greater number of births than deaths.
JCPD women’s prison unique in Tennessee (Johnson City Press)
In terms of being incarcerated, the Johnson City Police Department’s mini-prison for state inmates might be considered a cakewalk compared to other facilities across Tennessee. Still, JCPD Major Garry Younger said, the women are incarcerated and therefore, treated as such. “It’s jail. You can’t go get a candy bar whenever you want a candy bar,” he said. But the Johnson City Jail wasn’t always a state inmate facility. The change came about around 2000 under the administration of then-chief Ron Street. The idea was to transform the jail into a place where state female inmates served their sentence as well as a way for the city to earn a little revenue. “We are the only city in the state of Tennessee with a program like this,” he said.
Rural communities struggling with health care despite Obamacare (TFP/Benton)
People in nearby rural communities are struggling with getting health care despite ongoing efforts to boost health insurance enrollment through the Affordable Care Act. A national study covering the last three years ranks Grundy County as the most unhealthy county in Tennessee and several other counties in the region — such as nearby Marion, Meigs and Sequatchie counties in Tennessee; Dade and Walker counties in Georgia; and Jackson County, Ala. — remain ranked low in the study as health insurance participation continues to lag. After last October’s troubled launch of HealthCare.gov, the portal for national health-insurance exchanges, the push to cover more Americans resumes Nov. 15 with the beginning of the ACA open-enrollment period for 2015.
Sansom says making TVA more responsive, fiscally sound challenges (NS/Marcum)
The Kingston ash spill and Watts Bar Nuclear Plant cost overruns drew a lot of attention during his years as TVA chairman, but Bill Sansom said the underlying challenges were making the federal utility more responsive to customers and more fiscally sound. When he joined the board in 2006, Sansom described TVA’s reputation then as “pretty sorry.” The Tennessee Valley Authority of that time was arrogant, Sansom said. “Our customers didn’t like us, Washington didn’t like us, and we had a lot of financial problems,” he said. Sansom, who has served two terms as TVA chairman, is winding down his second term as a TVA director. His term actually expired in May but he will continue serving until a successor is approved by Congress or until Congress adjourns at the end of the year.
Board to give Register deadline for stay-or-go decision (Tennessean/Cass)
Metro school board members Saturday said that they would ask Schools Director Jesse Register to decide in the next few weeks if he wants a contract extension or is ready to move on. Register’s contract is set to expire in June, and board members and others have wondered for months if he wants to continue in the role or give way to a new director, which would require a monthslong search to get the right person in place by next summer. “I feel like we need to talk about the elephant in the room — or the elephant that’s not in the room — and start the conversation now about leadership,” board member Will Pinkston, Register’s loudest critic, said at an all-day board retreat that Register attended only briefly.
Tom Humphrey: Amendments provide ruler to measure GOP (News-Sentinel)
The proposed Tennessee constitutional amendments on the November ballot provide an odd mix of politics, arguably providing voters with a referendum on their trustworthiness in the state’s Republican supermajority Legislature. Amendment 1 effectively asks that the Legislature be trusted to decide abortion issues. Amendment 2 asks that the Legislature be trusted to hold veto authority over the governor’s appointments to the state’s highest courts. On the other hand, Amendment 3 asks voters to prohibit the General Assembly from ever considering a state income tax. In effect, passage of Amendment 3 would be a declaration of distrust in the Legislature, which without a constitutional prohibition might go off on a wild taxing-and-spending spree.
Guest columnist: If we work together, our priority schools will shine (Tennessean)
“My goal is to set the table for you as a new board with an audacious goal: Within 3 years, MNPS should have zero priority schools.” — Jesse Register, director, Metro Nashville Public Schools As superintendent of the Achievement School District and a resident of Nashville, I applaud the speech given by Jesse Register at last week’s school board meeting. Two themes in his plan really stood out: an urgent focus on priority schools and his emphasis on civility and collaboration. These two themes have particular significance for the ASD, the families we serve, and our work in Nashville. I’ll start with the urgency around priority schools.
Guest columnist: ‘All hands on deck’ only way to transform schools (Tennessean)
When the number of Metro schools on the state’s “high priority” list skyrocketed this year, everyone paying attention to the issue of school improvement in Nashville had the same thought: Something has to change. Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register wasted no time — proposing a bold plan to the school board this past week to turn around our struggling schools, a large number of which reside in East Nashville and serve a majority of families who live in poverty. His plan is courageous and highly promising because it centers on four things I believe are fundamental for true education reform: school choice, innovative thinking, talented staff and community involvement.
Editorial: City should refuse to appeal UT ticket amusement tax (News-Sentinel)
The University of Tennessee Athletic Department scored some points last month in its long-running effort to stop collecting local amusement taxes, but it faces a stout defense on the drive to hit total repeal paydirt. UT collects a 5 percent amusement tax on every football and basketball ticket sold for home games, with 4.5 percent going to the city of Knoxville and .5 percent going to Knox County. The tax, which originated in 1947, generates about $1.6 million a year. The Knox County Commission gave initial approval Aug. 25 to eliminating its amusement tax levy over the next two years. The county gets only a dime out of every dollar the tax generates, and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s office says natural growth should make up the difference with ease.