This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Mt. Juliet to make ‘major’ development announcement (Tennessean/Humbles)
Mt. Juliet has scheduled a “major economic development announcement,” next week where Under Armour and Federal Express both have interest in opening separate large-scale industrial use facilities. The announcement is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 2, at Interstate 40 and Beckwith Road, with top state officials expected to be present, Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty said. FedEx representatives recently had plans approved by Mt. Juliet’s planning commission to build an approximate 303,000-square-foot distribution facility. Under Armour has considered Mt. Juliet for a potentially even bigger industrial use facility than the proposed FedEx site on a different property in the same area, according to multiple sources.
Higher education panel to discuss work readiness (Associated Press)
The Nashville Business Journal has organized a panel discussion on higher education and workforce readiness. The panel is expected to talk about current trends in higher education to help students be competitive in the workforce. Panelists include University of Tennessee System President Joe DiPietro, Middle Tennessee State University President Sidney McPhee, Western Governors University Tennessee Chancellor Kimberly Estep and Volunteer State Community College President Jerry Faulkner. The event at the Omni Hotel in Nashville comes a week after Gov. Bill Haslam and the state’s legislative speakers convened a summit to discuss education changes in Tennessee, particularly the Common Core standards.
Magnitude 2.5 quake hits East Tennessee (Associated Press)
The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 2.5 earthquake occurred in Monroe County Saturday night. According to WATE-TV (http://bit.ly/XUf8SA), the quake happened about three miles northeast of Sweetwater around 8 p.m. The USGS says earthquakes that are felt but too small to cause damage happen about once a year. In June, Tennessee National Guard members and emergency response officials held an exercise to simulate the response to a large earthquake along the New Madrid (MAD’-rihd) fault. The New Madrid zone stretches 150 miles, crossing parts of Tennessee and six other states: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Mississippi.
Transportation Grants to Help Local Communities (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Department of Transportation is providing grants to help local communities with transportation projects and planning. This is the second grant cycle for the Multimodal Access Grants and the first year for the Community Transportation Planning Grants. Examples of projects eligible under the multimodal grant program include sidewalks and pedestrian crossing improvements, bus shelters, park and ride facilities, and bicycle lanes. The planning grant aims to help communities develop local transportation plans that support the statewide transportation system.
I-40 widening to help local businesses, tourism (Jackson Sun)
In a couple of years, motorists leaving the Casey Jones Village in Jackson will have the option to turn left at the Carriage House Drive light. It’s a small change that Brooks Shaw, Old Country Store general manager, says will be a significant difference in his family’s business. “It’s going to be a little bad at first (during construction), but in the long run it’s a great investment for our community,” Shaw said. The Tennessee Department of Transportation has released a project plan for widening Interstate 40 from exit 79 at Hollywood Drive toexit 87 at U.S. 70 East. Part of that project includes changing the intersection around the Casey Jones Village on the U.S. 45 Bypass.
Haslam to visit troops in Afghanistan (Commercial Appeal/Locker)
Gov. Bill Haslam is reportedly joining the governors of New York, Missouri and Nevada on a trip to Afghanistan to visit their states’ troops this weekend. The governor’s office won’t confirm the trip. Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, who is also a former U.S. ambassador to Poland, reported the trip in a column he writes for the Shopper News in Knoxville, citing an invitation to meet with the governors at a Sunday evening reception issued to U.S. Embassy personnel in Kabul that he was sent by former State Department contacts. The emailed invitation said Haslam, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, New York Mayor Andrew Cuomo and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval are making the trip. “I think it’s great they’re going,” Ashe said. “It’s always good for the troops. Every one of them is commander-in-chief of the National Guard in their states.”
MTSU signs dual-admission agreement with Northeast (Associated Press)
Middle Tennessee State University has signed an agreement allowing dual admissions with Northeast State Community College. Under the new agreement, Northeast State students will have access to MTSU advisers, faculty and programs within their proposed majors. Students completing associate’s degrees will be granted access to register early for university classes. According to MTSU, the agreement also allows for a reverse transfer of credits. That lets students completing MTSU courses transfer credits to Northeast State to help meet the requirements of an associate’s degree there. Northeast State has campuses in Blountville, Elizabethton, Gray and Kingsport and is opening a new campus in Johnson City.
Tennessee health officials warn about drugs from Cleveland pharmacy (TFP/Belz)
State health officials are warning patients not to use drugs made in a Cleveland, Tenn., pharmacy after an investigation found a series of major violations in its drug-making process. The state has suspended the license of the Wellness Store Compounding Pharmacy, located at 3555 Keith St. NW, after investigators found that the pharmacy was using “outdated, deteriorated or otherwise unsafe” ingredients to make eye drops and injectable drugs like steroids and the hormone hCG. The pharmacist in charge at the Wellness Store, Robin Terrero, also had her license suspended after an investigator found that she “intentionally falsified records,” frequently left the pharmacy unattended and illegally dispensed controlled substances using forged prescriptions in her son’s name.
First lady encourages reading during ‘Books from Birth’ stop (Ashland City Times)
The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) tour bus visited Cheatham County at Riverbluff Park in Ashland City on Sept. 16, with first lady Crissy Haslam on hand to greet young readers and their families. “This is truly an amazing statewide outreach effort that celebrates and build awareness for Books from Birth,” Haslam said. “It is critical that our children are exposed to books and reading at the earliest possible age. Tennessee’s Imagination Library program, supported by the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, is a proven and essential component of our state’s early childhood development initiatives.”
Alexander to discuss Ebola preparedness in Tenn. (Associated Press)
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander will be in Nashville to discuss the Ebola virus outbreak and Tennessee’s emergency preparedness. Alexander will visit Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Wednesday to meet with state health officials and other medical experts to discuss potential local, regional and global implications of the Ebola virus outbreak. Alexander is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. During a recent committee hearing on Ebola, Alexander called it “one of the most explosive, dangerous, deadly epidemics in modern times.”
DesJarlais honored as guardian of small business (Daily News Journal)
The National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s leading small business association, recently named U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper, a Guardian of Small Business for his voting record on behalf of small-business owners in the 113th Congress. NFIB President and CEO Dan Danner praised Rep. DesJarlais for “standing up for small business.” “Small-business owners are very politically active – paying close attention to how their lawmakers vote on key business issues and stand by those who stand for them,” Danner said when presenting the group’s coveted Guardian of Small Business Award.
U.S. States to Get More Insurers Under Affordable Care Act (Wall St. Journal)
Most states will have at least one more insurer selling health plans under the Affordable Care Act in the second year of the program’s full implementation, the Obama administration said. Some 33 states out of 43 where insurers have filed their intentions for the coming enrollment season are set to have a net increase in plans on offer through the law’s online exchanges, including two states that only had one insurer for 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services said. The new enrollment season starts Nov. 15 and ends mid-February 2015 for most Americans to shop for coverage and apply for tax credits toward the cost of premiums. The administration’s data is based on proposals from insurers that haven’t yet been finalized in all states. But it gives the fullest information so far about the range of options consumers will have in the coming year.
How Can States Fix Their Medicaid Programs? (Governing)
Erin Fair Taylor’s job isn’t easy. That’s because every day, she must figure out how to pay doctors. Taylor works for CareOregon, which is playing an active part in Oregon’s effort to overhaul its Medicaid system. As such, it’s her job these days to find a way to spur physicians toward lowering costs for care while maintaining a high quality of care. As she’s been talking with doctors, Taylor says, “many of them see the benefit” of what the state is trying to do. But also, she adds, there’s fear. Oregon is among a handful of states leading its Medicaid system into a new era. Traditionally, states have provided Medicaid benefits using a fee-for-service system — an approach critics say encourages providers to administer more services, often unnecessary ones. As a result, states over the past two decades have been implementing managed care organizations (MCOs), in which people receive most or all of their Medicaid services from an organization under contract with the state.
NRC to hold Watts Bar update meeting (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it will hold a public meeting in Athens, Tenn., Oct. 1, to review progress on the TVA Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor project. The meeting is at the Comfort Inn, 2811 Decatur Pike, in Athens. NRC representatives will be available for informal discussion with the public at 4:30 p.m.followed at 5 p.m. by a formal meeting in which NRC and TVA officials will discuss the project. At 5:30 p.m., NRC officials will discuss the status of licensing and inspection activities on the project. The Watts Bar Unit 2 project is more than 90 percent complete, according to a TVA update released in August. The reactor, which will join one already in operation at the Watts Bar plant near Spring City, is expected to come on line by about December, 2015.
Official expects Chattanooga visitor spending to top $1 billion in 2014 (TFP/Pare)
More than two decades after the Tennessee Aquarium opened and changed the face of the city, Chattanoogans need to think about the next big thing, tourism officials said Tuesday. “We need to dream big, think big and build big,” said Bob Doak, the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s chief executive. This year, for the first time, annual visitor spending in Hamilton County is expected to top $1 billion, he said. Tourism spending is up about 57 percent over the past decade alone, Doak said. In 1998, visitor spending was less than $500 million, or half what’s it’s anticipated to be in the county by year’s end, according to the CVB. Attendance this summer at the city’s attractions is some 10 percent higher than last year, and about 8 percent more of the city’s 9,000 hotel rooms were filled during the period, the Visitors Bureau reported at its annual meeting.
CA cuts budget, trims staff (Commercial Appeal)
Management of The Commercial Appeal announced budget cuts to its staff Tuesday, including layoffs, to offset declines in advertising revenue. In an email to employees, Publisher George Cogswell said expense reductions were necessary because of weaker than expected revenues but did not announce specific cuts nor reveal the number of layoffs. He said several steps were taken to minimize impact on the staff. “The reality is that the newspaper business continues to change and in reaction to business conditions today we must adapt,” Cogswell told employees. “Our consumers are changing the way they access their news and information and advertisers are choosing different ways to market their products and services. As a company, we must adjust in order to stabilize profitability and secure our long-term commitment to both readers and advertisers.” Most American newspapers have made substantial reductions in the size and cost of their operations over the past decade as readers turned increasingly to the Internet for news content. The CA is among many around the U.S. announcing cost reductions in recent weeks, including The Tennessean in Nashville.
Commercial Appeal lays off 17, more could come (Memphis Business Journal)
As we reported earlier today, The Commercial Appeal announced significant cuts to it staff and layout. Wayne Risher, president of the Memphis Newspaper Guild, posted on the Guild’s Facebook page that 13 Guild members and four non-members had lost their jobs. The Guild members include two photographers, four reporters, one copy editor, four employees in customer service and two in transportation. Ted Evanoff, business editor at The Commercial Appeal, said the business staff is not being reduced. This is in spite of the fact that the business section will be a standalone piece only on Sundays, and it will be moved to the A section during the week, Evanoff said. “This is a modern American corporation. What’s happening here is indicative of what’s going on in the economy in Memphis,” he added.
Jesse Register won’t seek extension as Metro Schools director (Tenn/Garrison)
Jesse Register says he will not seek a contract extension as director of schools of Metro Nashville Public Schools, ending silence on his future and paving the way for a closely watched search for his replacement. Register, who has led Nashville’s public schools since 2009, announced his decision to the Metro school board Tuesday night, less than a year before his contract with MNPS is set to expire after June 2015. He plans to fulfill the rest of that commitment. “I feel like it’s good to go ahead and say that I will not ask for a future contract, and look forward to working hard this year to get everything done,” he said. “We’ve got a lot on the table.”
Superintendent hears teachers’ complaints, tweaks observation rules (CA/Roberts)
Teachers in Shelby County Schools scored a victory in how their classroom observations are interpreted. Effective immediately, the score a teacher gets from the principal is not final until the two have discussed it. Last year, they were not allowed to see how the principal scored the classroom visit until the conference. Teachers believed that diminished their ability to contribute to the discussion. The observations count up to half of their job review. This year, they were told the principal’s score was final and could not be altered in the conference. But in a letter to teachers late Monday, Supt. Dorsey Hopson said district staff “will be reaching out directly to principals” to potentially change scores that have already been entered this fall.
New laws affect local students, teachers (Leaf Chronicle)
Students will be taught cursive and have more physical activities implemented into their school days, according to new state laws that went into effect this year. The Clarksville-Montgomery County School Board met for its study session meeting Tuesday night and discussed a legislative review of new laws that affect students and teachers. One of the most discussed laws was one that now requires at least 90 minutes of physical activity per week to be integrated into the instruction day for all students. Walking to and from class is not in compliance with the new requirement, the law states Dr. B.J. Worthington said districts across the state are having a hard time meeting this new law that passed in July, because Physical Education class is separate from the requirement.
Editorial: Repeal of Hall tax without replacing revenues bad idea (News-Sentinel)
Once again, there will be an effort to repeal Tennessee’s Hall income tax when the new General Assembly convenes in January. Repealing the tax, a 6 percent levy on dividend and interest income, with the resulting revenue split between state and local governments, has been on the conservative wish list for years. A repeal effort during this spring’s legislative session failed after the Haslam administration told lawmakers the revenues were needed in a tight budget year. Gov. Bill Haslam already has warned that next year’s budget will not have much room to maneuver as well. Legislators who want to nix the tax thus far have not come up with replacement revenues that would sustain current levels of government operations at both the state and local levels. Unless they do, repeal would be unwise.