This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Editorial: A skilled workforce could be an elixir this community’s economic ills (CA)
A constant theme of the Memphis and Shelby County mayors and Greater Memphis Chamber leadership is that if Memphis and Shelby County expect to attract high-paying jobs, it is imperative that this community have a skilled workforce. Educators also have bought into that goal, putting initiatives in place to graduate either job-ready or college-ready students… What Southwest is doing meshes with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise program, where Tennessee high school graduates will be able to attend a state two-year college tuition-free, earning an associate degree in a particular field or continue on to a four-year institution.
Students consider TN Promise before November 1 deadline (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
An important deadline for high school seniors interested in two years of free college is approaching. So far, almost 23,000 students have registered to participate in Tennessee Promise, a program thatgives students attending community or technical colleges free tuition. It is part of Governor Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55”–he wants to raise the number of people in the state with a post-high school degree from 32% to 55% by the year 2025. The deadline for that program is November 1. On Monday night, high school seniors met at Pellissippi State Community College to learn more about the program.
Tennessee Gov. Haslam sees ‘huge progress’ in Afghanistan (Associated Press)
Gov. Bill Haslam has released a YouTube video from Afghanistan in which he praises the “huge progress” in that country since his last visit three years ago. Haslam is one of four U.S. governors who travelled to Afghanistan on Saturday to receive counterterrorism briefings and greet troops stationed there. In the video posted Monday on YouTube, Haslam says the country has gone from having about 700,000 children receiving basic education to about 8 million, half of whom are girls and women. In Haslam’s words: “It is literally a different country, and I don’t think we have that great of appreciation for that.” The governor praises the work of Tennessee troops in the country and says their work overseas helps keep Americans safe at home.
Haslam meets with troops, leaders in Afghanistan (News-Sentinel/Locker)
Nearly a week after it was first reported in a suburban Knoxville shopper newspaper, Gov. Bill Haslam’s office finally announced Monday that he traveled to Afghanistan and Germany with three other governors over the weekend, where they met with military leaders and troops. Haslam took the trip as a new member of the nation’s Council of Governors, whose purpose is to strengthen links between the states and federal defense officials. “Visiting our troops and being able to thank them for their service in person is always an honor, especially when they are half way around the world,” Haslam said.
Reverse Pitch event switches it up during Startup Week Chattanooga (TFP/Malek)
For one day next week, tables will turn on the state’s startups. They won’t hunt for money to develop their ideas. This time, the ideas — “problems” would be a better word — will already have financial backing. The problems also will belong to other companies who need entrepreneurs to come up with ways to solve them. The state’s first “reverse pitch” event will take place on Oct. 7, during the inaugural Startup Week Chattanooga. Nine corporations will each present proposals to an audience of “developers, programmers, engineers, designers, marketers and hackers of all kinds,” according to Launch Tennessee, which is hosting the event.
TennCare appeals federal order (Nashville Post)
TennCare officials have filed an appeal against the federal injunction that orders the state Medicaid agency to provide timely hearings on applications. Earlier this month, Judge Todd Campbell granted two motions filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Tennessee Justice Center and the National Health Law Program, the three entities that filed the federal suit in July. The suit alleged TennCare has failed to comply with federal requirements — specifically, that Medicaid applications must be processed within 45 days or a hearing must be held. The legal advocacy groups requested Campbell certify the case as class action and order TennCare to process claims and provide hearings as required.
Escapes spark changes at Tennessee juvenile center (Associated Press/Schelzig)
Tennessee officials plan to beef up security at a juvenile detention center where three major escape attempts in less than a month have worried the facility’s neighbors, but they also want to keep the it from becoming too much like an adult prison. Jim Henry, commissioner of the state Department of Children’s Services, told The Associated Press on Monday that he plans to seek court approval to be able to lock the teens in their rooms and to give guards access to tear gas in emergencies. But he said he does not support arming the guards. “We’re not going to re-create a correctional type facility, but we do need security so people can’t just attack a guard anytime they want to,” Henry said.
DCS: Staff failures led to Woodland Hills escapes (Tennessean/Wadhwani)
A preliminary investigation into the mass escape of 13 teens from Woodland Hills Youth Development Center on Friday night found that a failure to follow proper security procedures led to the third outbreak this month at the juvenile lockup. And newly obtained 911 calls convey a sense of chaos on the grounds as staff tried to account for teenage boys who had broken out of their dorm rooms — and panic from drivers in the neighborhood who were being pelted with rocks. “How, how, why is the gate wide open?” a woman says loudly in a panicky voice at the beginning of a 911 call, before addressing the operator directly. She identifies herself as a Woodland Hills staff member who had called minutes before to report youths running wildly around the campus.
Freshman enrollment up for U of M, total enrollment down (Memphis Biz Journal)
This semester, the University of Memphis enrolled 2,368 new Tigers fans. The university reported freshman enrollment is up 220 students from last year. Total undergraduate enrollment comes in at 17,258 students, which is a decrease of 34 students from last year. Nine hundred of these students participate in the dual enrollment program. This is up 45 students from last year. University-wide enrollment for undergraduates, graduates and law students comes in at 21,356. This is a decrease of 292 students from last year. U of M president M. David Rudd said the decrease in total undergraduates is related to a record graduation rate and a low enrollment rate from 2011 to 2013.
MTSU president to recruit students at Rocketown event (Tennessean/Tamburin)
Hundreds of high school and college students are expected at an MTSU recruitment event Tuesday in Nashville. Middle Tennessee State University President Sidney A. McPhee will be on hand to meet with prospective students and their families during a 6 p.m. reception at Rocketown on Fourth Avenue South. Other educators also will be on hand to discuss the admissions process, courses of study and university initiatives. Students also will get a chance to tour the 40-foot, $1.8 million Electronic Media Communication mobile production truck that is used to broadcast music events and college football and basketball games.
New attorney general to be sworn in Wednesday (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
Tennessee’s new attorney general will be sworn in Wednesday in Nashville. Knoxville attorney Herbert Slatery III will be the state’s 27th attorney general. He’s served as Governor Bill Haslam’s chief legal counsel since 2011. Before that he worked in private practice in Knoxville for 30 years. Slatery replaces Robert Cooper, Jr., who just completed his eight year term in the office. Tennessee is the only state where the supreme court picks the state’s attorney general.
Appeals court to state: Turn over IDs of executioners (Tennessean/Haas)
Tennessee has to turn over the identities of executioners to attorneys representing 11 death row inmates challenging the state’s death penalty, according to an appeals ruling. The Tennessee Court of Appeals on Monday ruled that state secrecy laws surrounding lethal injection procedures don’t apply to court cases, which are instead guided by discovery rules. Its ruling requires the state to turn over the identities of its execution team to attorneys for the inmates, under seal. Kelley Henry, a federal public defender who represents some of the death row inmates, lauded the ruling and said it would protect both the inmates and the state.
Senator: ‘Mistake’ in showing support to defeat judges’ measure (N-S/Humphrey)
State Sen. Reginald Tate says he supports approval of Amendment 2 on the November statewide ballot, even though he is listed as a member of the steering committee for an organization opposing the proposal authorizing gubernatorial appointment of the state’s top judges. “I made a mistake,” Tate, D-Memphis, said in an interview. Tate said he had misunderstood the purpose of the committee in a conversation with organizers and assented to use of his name thinking it involved a show of support for electing judges at lower court levels. Amendment 2 does not impact trial court judges, who will remain subject to contested elections. Instead, it authorizes the governor to appoint members of the state Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and the Court of Criminal Appeals — subject to legislative confirmation and a retention election wherein voters will decide whether the judges get a subsequent term.
Amendment 3 would prohibit state and local personal income taxes (CA/Locker)
Thirteen years after protesters stormed the State Capitol over a state income tax that lawmakers were considering, Tennesseans will decide Nov. 4 whether to permanently ban any new state or local personal income or payroll tax in Tennessee. The third of the four amendments proposed for the Tennessee Constitution on the general election ballot would add an explicit prohibition on enactment of a general income tax on wages and salaries by the state and local governments. The operative phrase in Amendment 3 says “the Legislature shall not levy, authorize or otherwise permit any state or local tax upon payroll or earned personal income or any state or local tax measured by payroll or earned personal income ….”
Conservative Christian reality TV stars the Duggars back Amendment 1 (TFP/Sher)
Conservative Christian reality TV stars Jim Bobb and Michelle Duggar threw their support behind Amendment 1 on abortion Monday, with Michelle Duggar charging the provision is needed to stop a “baby holocaust” taking place in Tennessee. The Arkansas couple and 17 of their 19 children joined Tennessee social conservatives at a news conference at Legislative Plaza in Nashville where they discussed their support of the amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot. “We have the responsibility under almighty God to protect innocent lives that cannot yet speak for themselves,” said Michelle Duggar, whose family’s lives are chronicled on the popular TLC series “19 Kids and Counting.” “If we don’t speak up and do something to stop this holocaust, the blood of these little ones will be on our hands.”
Eleven Joe Carr supporters now back Lamar Alexander (Tennessean/Cass)
Eleven state representatives who supported Rep. Joe Carr in the Republican U.S. Senate primary last month are now backing Sen. Lamar Alexander in the general election, Alexander’s campaign said today. The campaign released a letter from the 11 lawmakers, who said they “feel that it is vitally important to the country that we stand together and support replacing the liberal agenda that is now in control of the United States Senate.” The letter was signed by Reps. Frank Niceley, Joey Hensley, Billy Spivey, Bill Sanderson, Tim Wirgau, Mike Sparks, Matthew Hill, Mark Pody, Timothy Hill, Rick Womick and Andy Holt. They also wrote to Alexander that they feel “assured that you have heard and understand the voices of conservatives who expect real change in conducting our nation’s business.”
Alexander stresses contrast at rally (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Witt)
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander didn’t acknowledge his tea party opponent by name much in the Republican primary, but he has an eye out for Democratic challenger Gordon Ball in the general election. With the Nov. 4 election looming, Alexander drew the contrast between his platform and a liberal stance he tied to Ball. “The primary was a family discussion. Now the differences are real,” Alexander said during a lunch rally at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Knoxville on Monday. Alexander rattled off the contrasts: He is backed by the National Rifle Association; Ball is not. Alexander is anti-abortion; Ball is for abortion rights. Alexander voted against Obamacare, he said, but Ball is a supporter. Ball backs unions, while Alexander said he supports the state’s right-to-work laws.
GOP calls for Ball to withdraw from Senate race (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Republican Party is calling on Democratic Senate nominee Gordon Ball to drop out of the race over content lifted from other politicians on his campaign website. Party Chairman Chris Devaney cited a Buzzfeed article Monday that listed several passages on Ball’s website that contained identical language from prominent Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. A Ball campaign spokeswoman said information on the website had been collected from a former volunteer. She said Ball had not been aware that the information was cut and pasted from elsewhere. Ball said he has no plans to drop out in his race against Republican incumbent Lamar Alexander, who is seeking a third term. Early voting begins Oct. 15. (SUBSCRIPTION)
Gordon Ball campaign says it wasn’t aware of plagiarized web content (NS/Collins)
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Gordon Ball’s campaign said Monday he would remain in the race after an online news site revealed that much of the text on his web site had been copied almost word for word from other sources. The online publication BuzzFeed reported that “nearly every word” of the text used to describe Ball’s position on various issues appeared to have been lifted from news releases or materials from “a vast array” of other politicians, including Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. In some cases, entire sentences or paragraphs appeared to be copied verbatim.
Largest Public Pensions Face $2 Trillion Hole, Moody’s Says (Bloomberg)
The 25 largest U.S. public pensions face about $2 trillion in unfunded liabilities, showing that investment returns can’t keep up with ballooning obligations, according to Moody’s Investors Service. The 25 biggest systems by assets averaged a 7.45 percent return from 2004 to 2013, close to the expected 7.65 percent rate, Moody’s said in a report released today. Yet the New York-based credit rater’s calculation of liabilities tripled in the eight years through 2012, according to the report. “Despite the robust investment returns since 2004, annual growth in unfunded pension liabilities has outstripped these returns,” Moody’s said.
Accredo Adding 50 Jobs in Memphis (Memphis Daily News)
Accredo Health Group Inc. will add dozens of jobs in Memphis by the end of 2014. Accredo, a subsidiary of Express Scripts Holding Co. that has around 1,500 jobs locally, will add 50 new jobs at its Century Center campus in Memphis by the end of the year. “Accredo is an important part of our business and we see an opportunity there to add some positions to help us deliver the level of service our customers expect,” said Brian Henry, vice president of corporate communications for Express Scripts. Boston-based General Investment and Development Co., which bought the Century Center complex from Sun Life Financial in 2005, recently acquired around 12 acres of vacant land adjacent to Accredo’s location near Whitten Road and Interstate 240 from Boyle Investment Co. for a new 500-space parking lot that Accredo will use.
New Jersey: Stalled Mall Impedes Christie’s Plan After Casinos Fail (Bloomberg)
Governor Chris Christie came to office in 2010 staking New Jersey’s economic turnaround on the resurrection of two stalled construction projects. Now, one is a $2.4 billion flop, and the other is years behind schedule. American Dream, the vacant East Rutherford megamall that Christie once called “the ugliest damn building in New Jersey, and maybe America,” hasn’t signed investors almost a year after his administration agreed to public financing and a $390 million tax break, the biggest of its kind in state history. The Republican governor had planned for the $3.8 billion mall to open in 2013. Instead, it will be at least two years before the first of an expected 35,000 employees clock in.
Times Editorial: We can’t spell, but we have low taxes (Times Free-Press)
Gov. Bill Haslam seems poised to slide straight back into his chair in Tennessee’s Capitol building this November and that’s really too bad for Tennesseans. It’s too bad because Volunteer State taxpayers need more from their governor than the dithering Haslam has done with TennCare, with Common Core, with the Department of Children’s Services and any number of other problems and departments. It’s true that Haslam must walk a fine line between common-sense governing and the disconnected far right that unfortunately controls the Tennessee General Assembly. But that’s just the point. He doesn’t seem up to the job of corralling — or even just cajoling — the lawmakers who have managed to delay education reforms and recently passed a law that probably will torpedo his effort to finally bring Affordable Care Act money to Tennessee.