This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Bill Haslam: It’s time to kick off the fall (Lebanon Democrat)
Earlier this month, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Beth Harwell and I convened key stakeholders in K-12 education from across the state for Tennessee’s Education Summit: Progress of the Past, Present and Future. If we’re going to reach our goals as a state, there is nothing more important than getting education right. Tennessee has made historic progress with a lot of change and discussion over the past seven years, and this was a chance to look back at where we’ve been, where we are today, and to make sure we’re planning for where we want to go. A couple of takeaways that we all agree on include: • high standards in Tennessee matter • the jobs of the future are going to require more skills and technical training, and we have to prepare our students for that.
Mars Petcare officially opens (Columbia Daily Herald)
Mars Petcare and the Nutro Company’s Global Innovation Center opened Wednesday. The facility, which features four main buildings, employs 140 people. The $110 million facility is part of a $282 million investment the company has made in Tennessee. “This is a big deal in Tennessee,” said Governor Bill Haslam. “In Tennessee, we produce things. One of the things we’re known for is our ability to make things. This is just another example of that.” Among the buildings is a 10,302-square-foot learning center, that features an interactive learning environment and Mars history museum for guests. The learning center also include space for focus groups, a conference center, a workout room and break room for employees.
Mt. Pleasant, Columbia land $1.3M in grants (Columbia Daily Herald)
The city of Mt. Pleasant received more than $1 million in grant funding that will go toward rehabilitating the town’s water and wastewater systems. State officials announced Community Development Block Grant recipients Wednesday at the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development administers the program that is designed to assist communities with infrastructure, health and safety projects and downtown improvements. Maury County applied for a CDBG on Mt. Pleasant’s behalf and received a $525,000 grant that requires a $85,466 local match for a total project cost of $610,466. The city of Mt. Pleasant was awarded a $525,000 grant that needs $33,511 in local funding.
Haslam stands by closure of Taft youth center (Times Free-Press/Sher)
Gov. Bill Haslam is defending his administration’s 2012 closure of Taft Youth Development Center in rural Bledsoe County despite recent riots and two mass escapes by hardened teen-age felons housed in a Nashville facility. “I think the move to close Taft was right, and I think if you talk to anybody who’s actually involved there, I don’t think closing Taft has anything to do with some of the challenges we’ve had at Woodland Hills,” the governor told reporters last week. Haslam’s Department of Children’s Services has been grappling with how to address the escapes and violence at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center, which sits in an industrial area of Nashville but isn’t far from some residential areas where neighbors are concerned. On Sept. 1, 32 teens broke out of Woodland Hills, injuring two guards.
Cooperatives provide Billion-Dollar Boost to Tennessee’s Economy (C. Online)
October is Cooperative Month in Tennessee, and proclamation signed by Governor Bill Haslam deeming it as such heaps high praise on the approximately 200 member-owned organizations that employ more than 6,000 individuals, impact our state’s economy by more than $1 billion, and provide a wide array of products and services to member-owners. “Today, more than 75 percent of Tennessee’s rural residents are served by a cooperative,” the governor said. The proclamation, also signed by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, reads, in part: “Tennessee cooperatives improve the well-being of rural residents and communities across our state by providing electric, internet, and telephone services to homes, farms, and rural businesses; financing for land, assets, and inputs; products and services, including genetics and seed, nutrients and feed, crop protection and health, equipment and fuel for growing and marketing crops and livestock; and insurance for individuals and family businesses, resulting in employment for thousands of Tennesseans.”
Statewide job fairs combat veteran unemployment (Times Free-Press/Willard)
Businesses from across the state stand ready to mobilize and combat unemployment among Tennessee’s military veterans. From Chattanooga to Clarksville, 10 cities across Tennessee will play host Thursday to hiring events targeting veterans. Closest to Murfreesboro, Paychecks for Patriots events will be from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at LP Field in Nashville, the Tennessee Career Center at Columbia, the Leslie Town Center in Cookeville and the Tennessee Army National Guard in Tullahoma. Paychecks for Patriots links military veterans needing jobs with employers who have immediate openings for full-time jobs. Murfreesboro’s Matthew O’Dell, owner of Reveille Joe Coffee Co. and a veterans rights advocate, knows too well how hard the transition from military to civilian life can be.
Twin babies’ $200K hospital bill illustrates TennCare flaws (Tennessean/Wilemon)
TennCare’s problems with backlogged Medicaid applications have left Teddy Miller worrying about a $200,000 hospital bill while he changes diapers. Separated from his wife, he’s a full-time father taking care of 10-month-old twins. Conner and Nolen spent weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit in East Tennessee after being born a month early. It took him multiple attempts to get TennCare for the twins, and he is still trying to get the coverage backdated to the time of the original application. “I don’t know know what I’m going to do about that,” Miller said. Tennessee’s Medicaid program is not supposed to work that way. The hospital could have temporarily enrolled the twins for coverage at birth if TennCare had a presumptive eligibility system in place.
TDOT says costs will rise on new Goose Creek/I-65 bridge (Tennessean/Walters)
In the wake of a tragic tanker truck crash at the Goose Creek/Interstate 65 bridge in August, state road builders have scrambled to rebuild a portion of the bridge in time to be open by Thanksgiving. Crews had nearly finished work this summer on the first portion of the bridge when a truck driver slammed a fuel truck loaded with gasoline into the bridge, engulfing the new and old bridges in a towering fireball. Police said the Aug. 15 crash killed the truck’s driver, 67-year-old Bobby Bobo of Columbia, Tenn. Because of the severity of the damage to the bridges, the old bridge and the first nearly completed segment of the new bridge had to be demolished, leaving drivers with no quick way to cross I-65 in southern Williamson County. Now, state road officials say they expect to have part of the new bridge open by late November.
Governor’s race vote to affect amendments (Daily News Journal)
Tennessee Amendment No. 1 could be a strong voter turnout for the Nov. 4 election, MTSU political science professor Mark Byrnes said. “I think it’s likely the hottest issue on the ballot this fall,” said Byrnes, a 23-year professor who is also the dean of the Middle Tennessee State University College of Liberal Arts. “You have a governor’s raced that’s a yawner and an uncompetitive U.S. Senate race.” Given that an amendment only passes if the vote total equals at least 50 percent plus one of all votes tallied in the governor’s race, those who oppose Amendment No. 1 must vote in the gubernatorial race to increase chances of it failing, Byrnes added.
Ye be judged: Amendment could grant legislature power of judicial approval (JCP)
Amendment 2, a measure changing the way appellate judges are appointed in Tennessee, will appear on the November ballot, and it has some firepower behind it, including former Gov. Phil Bredesen, former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson and sitting Gov. Bill Haslam. But what is Amendment 2? First, it only affects the way judges at the appellate level — 12 on the Criminal Court of Appeals, 12 on the Court of Appeals for civil cases and five Supreme Court justices — are selected, as well as trial court vacancies in the middle of a term. Secondly, it retains the current system of appointing appellate judges but adds a legislative component.
National parks took hit from shutdown (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Malek)
A year ago at this time, national parks across the country were closed due to a partial government shutdown. Park grounds, visitor centers, in-park hotels, campgrounds and most park roads were shuttered for the first 16 days of October. Visitation for nearly all national parks dropped because of that, and, as logic dictates, so did visitor spending. Communities near Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park were among those to feel the squeeze the most, according to a recent National Park Service report. Hardest hit were Tennessee and North Carolina gateway communities to the national park that’s always the busiest: the Great Smoky Mountains. There’s no question that the shutdown hurt his park, said Brad Bennett, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park’s superintendent.
2 cities could be proving grounds for soda tax (Associated Press/Knickmeyer)
A tax on sodas and other sugar-laden drinks that voters and courts in other parts of the country have rejected is on the November ballots in San Francisco and Berkeley, two cities that have been open to such social-engineering initiatives in the past. Voters in San Francisco will decide whether to make distributors pay a tax of 2 cents an ounce on sugary drinks — 24 cents a can or $2.88 a 12-pack — with the revenue used to fund programs promoting healthy eating and physical activity. Berkeley voters will decide on a proposed tax of 1 cent an ounce, with proceeds going to the city’s general fund. More than a dozen attempts elsewhere in the country to curb the sweet tooth of consumers have failed after big-spending opposition campaigns and legal battles by the $76 billion U.S. soft-drink industry.
New UAW Chattanooga president to focus on Volkswagen recognition (TFP/Walton)
The newly elected president of the United Auto Workers local in Chattanooga said Saturday he plans to seek talks soon with Volkswagen plant officials about formally recognizing the union. “Our purpose is to get recognition,” said Mike Cantrell, who has worked at the VW plant for about three and a half years. “My goal is to move forward with recognition. Then … we’ll start bargaining for a contract.” Cantrell, 57, who works in the quality department, won a three-person race for the top job at UAW Local 42 on Friday. Balloting took place at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers offices off Bonny Oaks Drive. The UAW set up the nondues-paying local in Chattanooga in June after losing a February organizing election at the plant by 53 percent to 47 percent.
Guest columnist: Volunteer mentors needed for Tennessee Promise (Tennessean)
Few Tennesseans — only 32 percent — have college degrees. My great-grandfather did not attend college. As a young man, he left Macedonia for America to make a better life, promising to send for his family soon. He worked many jobs and eventually opened a restaurant. Hard work allowed him to keep his promise to his family. My grandfather didn’t attend college, either. He arrived in America speaking eight languages — no English — so he worked in the family restaurant. By the time my father was born, my family realized the promise of a better life in America required pairing hard work with education. They promised to support the first generation of American-born children and send them to college. I continue to benefit from their promise. A first-generation college graduate, my father earned a degree in engineering.
Editorial: Governor stays mum on Medicaid (Daily News Journal)
Gov. Bill Haslam is playing his cards pretty close to his vest in regard to any plans to expand Medicaid in Tennessee through the federal Affordable Care Act. Haslam again has raised the hopes of those who favor Medicaid expansion with recent statements that a proposal will be going forward to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Exactly what that proposal will be is not clear, but the governor apparently is trying to follow the precedent of TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program, that was an attempt to provide something distinctive to Tennessee in regard to providing health insurance to those with low incomes. Even if Haslam has accomplished the crafting of such a proposal, he still has the task of convincing the Legislature to approve whatever he can negotiate with federal officials.
Editorial: Protect the workers at detention centers, too (Jackson Sun)
Events of the last month show a clear need to improve security at our state’s juvenile detention centers. As the state does so, though, a better balance must be struck between avoiding a prison-like environment for children and providing for the safety of employees. The state has three youth detention facilities, one in Dandridge, one in Nashville and one in Memphis. Much attention has been focused in the last month on the Woodland Hills complex in Nashville, where there have been three major escapes or escape attempts since Sept. 1. On Sept. 1, residents took advantage of weaknesses in the construction of the facility to break out. Thirty-two teens escaped when they kicked out metal panels under windows and left the compound from a low area where the fencing was not anchored in concrete.
Editorial: Amendment 2 adds check to judicial process (News-Sentinel)
Tennessee voters are being asked in the voting booth this fall to clarify — once and for all — how appellate court judges, including state Supreme Court justices, are selected. The question has been bandied about for years. The state Constitution states, “The judges of the Supreme Court shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.” A Special Supreme Court, however, ruled earlier this year that the state’s current method of appointing and retaining judges, called the Tennessee Plan, passes constitutional muster. Still, some critics, including state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, and political gadfly John J. Hooker, argue that only a statewide election of judges would satisfy the constitutional directive.
Tom Humphrey: Plagiarism claim prime example of politics of nothing (N-S)
The current issue of Time has an article on the “politics of nothing” trend and, as often is the case in these days of cookie-cutter partisan campaigns, that which rings true on the national level may apply here in Tennessee. The proposition is that the two major parties both have accomplished much of their biggest goals. Republicans don’t have much of an agenda beyond opposing anything President Barack Obama supports because they’ve been winning battles on taxes, welfare and crime since Ronald Reagan days. Democrats don’t have much of an agenda either, thanks to Obama’s first-term success on education reforms, Wall Street reforms and, of course, the Affordable Care Act. So now there’s partisan gridlock in Washington with no real chance for that changing, leaving the parties to fight over “relative scraps” —or creating inconsequential issues in attempts to rally their respective bases.
Guest columnist: Haslam visit a huge hit (Columbia Daily Herald)
Congratulations all around to the hard-working volunteers of the Bedford County Imagination Library team for a hugely successful visit from Mrs. Crissy Haslam and the Imagination Library Bus last week. This worthy organization helps put books in the hands of children who for various reasons, might never come to a library, or a bookmobile, or even hold a book before they go to school. The Imagination Library is the brainchild of Dolly Parton. Through her generosity and partnered with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, books are available to every child in Tennessee and sent to them once per month from birth through age 5. No other state has such a program. These folks help fill a need that might otherwise be unfilled. Try as I might, I can’t really envision a childhood without books of some sort at home.