This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
35,000 Tennessee students apply for free community college (Tennessean)
If there’s a single moment that has best captured the rush to attend community college for free in Tennessee, it probably came at Motlow State last month. The Lynchburg, Tenn., school held what it called “Scholarship Saturday.” In just four hours, more than 1,300 students signed up for Tennessee Promise, the new program led by Gov. Bill Haslam that gives Tennessee’s high school seniors free tuition at the state’s two-year community colleges and colleges of applied technology. Forty-five minutes before the doors even opened for the one-stop application outing, a line was already meandering out the door of the school’s library.
Haslam touts tourism’s role in Tennessee economy (Knoxville News Sentinel)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told a gathering of tourism officials in Knoxville Friday that their industry is an important pillar of the state’s economy. For the eighth straight year, tourism has added more than $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue to the Tennessee economy, he said. This is in addition to $16.7 billion in direct economic impact, Haslam said. “Without the work that you all do, we are not going to drive the revenue that we do in Tennessee,” he told those attending a luncheon at the Knoxville Convention Center, at the close of the three-day Governor’s Conference on Hospitality & Tourism. More than 500 people from across the state attended the event, which included seminars, speeches, a trade show and other activities.
Tennessee tourism flourishes (Chattanooga Times Free Press)
Tourism spending in Tennessee grew last year at twice the overall inflation rate, helping to support about one of every 20 jobs in the Volunteer State, according to a new U.S. Travel study. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday that the state’s tourism industry grew by 3.3 percent in 2013 to more than $27 billion, including $934.5 million in spending in Hamilton County. The industry employs 236,200 workers in Tennessee. To sustain and grow that number, Haslam told the Governor’s Conference on Hospitality & Tourism Friday the state needs to continue to support taxpayer advertising and marketing campaigns. In a state with no income tax, Tennessee relies heavily on sales and other taxes, and tourism is a prime generator of those revenues, he said.
Haslam addresses tourism industry at Governor’s Conference (The Chattanoogan)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam addressed industry professionals during the 2014 Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Hospitality & Tourism on Friday in his hometown of Knoxville. “You can take pride in the fact that your industry is one of the key contributors to Tennessee’s success,” said Governor Haslam. “For the eighth consecutive year, tourism has generated more than $1 billion in state and local sales tax revenue. This tax revenue, coupled with the $16.7 billion annually in direct economic impact, makes tourism one of our state’s largest industries.” Governor Haslam also emphasized tourism as a job-generator for Tennessee. Domestic and international travel expenditures supported 148,700 jobs in Tennessee in 2013, up 1.7 percent year over year, and these jobs provide $3.3 billion in payroll income.
Bredesen, Haslam partner up for campaign ad (Nashville Business Journal)
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen and Gov. Bill Haslam have joined forces on a new TV ad that will air this campaign season. In the video, the two governors — one a Democrat, one a Republican — endorse Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November that concerns how the state’s top judges are selected. Currently, the governor has appointment power, which the amendment would enshrine in the constitution. Opponents of the measure believe the state’s constitution calls for direct election of judges. You can watch the new ad with this story. VIDEO HERE.
Abortion rights advocates raise $1.5 million in quarter (Tennessean)
Abortion rights advocates raised more than twice as much money for the campaign to defeat Amendment 1 to the state constitution as the amendment’s supporters took in, according to figures provided by both sides. Abortion rights advocates brought in more than $1.5 million for the effort to defeat Amendment 1 to the state constitution. Proponents of the amendment, meanwhile, raised $631,576 for the quarter. The “Vote No on One Tennessee” campaign is about halfway to a stated goal of $4 million for the campaign against a measure on the Nov. 4 ballot that would remove abortion protections from the state constitution. A statewide get out the vote effort is scheduled across the state on Saturday. Early voting starts Oct. 15. Fundraising reports from both sides were due Friday.
At least 20 county government resolutions backing abortion amendment (KNS)
At least 20 county governments in Tennessee have approved resolutions backing Amendment 1, a ballot item on abortion that would change the state constitution, but Knox County Commission is not likely to fall in line with others. Some Knox County commissioners questioned the wisdom of taking up a statewide ballot item. “That’s sort of the way I would look at it, picking up on a controversy that is already controversial,” Knox County Commission Vice Chairman Dave Wright said. Wright, however, said he wouldn’t stop others from bringing up the issue. Hamilton County Commission earlier this month passed a symbolic resolution supporting the amendment, which is a victory according to Leslie Hunse, community outreach coordinator for the “Yes on 1” campaign in East Tennessee. Her office is in Knoxville.
State treasurer visits Humboldt, talks Tennessee economy (Jackson Sun)
State Treasurer David Lillard Jr. discussed Tennessee’s economy with the Humboldt Rotary Club on Friday, covering a variety of topics such as how the state treasury manages its own assets, the state sales tax and the TNStars College Savings 529 program. Lillard, who has been in office since 2009, recently was elected president of the National Association of State Treasurers. He also serves on the Executive Committee of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers. Speaking to a packed room at the Humboldt Medical Center, Lillard began by discussing the difference between Tennessee and the rest of the nation, and what the state government accomplished in the last year. “Most state treasurers in the United States do not invest the money that their custodians owe,” he said.
Alexander doesn’t talk much about his role in national school standards (CA)
NASHVILLE — During his re-election campaign, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has often condemned “the national school board,” a term he coined for President Obama’s education policies. The Tennessee Republican rarely mentions his own tenure as U.S. education secretary under former President George H.W. Bush — two years marked by his “America 2000” initiative, which proposed the first comprehensive national education standards and testing reminiscent of the Common Core State Standards more than two decades later. “America 2000” was unveiled in April 1991 shortly after Alexander replaced Lauro Cavazos as Bush’s education secretary. Alexander was prime architect of the program, which included the proposed creation of national standards and voluntary national tests in English, math, science, history, and geography to be administered in grades 4, 8 and 12. Like Common Core, America 2000’s roots were with the nation’s governors, whom Bush called together in 1989 for an “Education Summit” in Charlottesville, Va. Bush asked Alexander, then president of the University of Tennessee, to help moderate the summit, at which six “national goals” for education were drafted.
Alexander wants voice in TVA board appointments (Chattanooga Times Free Press)
A decade after former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., led a reform of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s governing board, his successors from Tennessee in the Senate aren’t so sure the board appointment process is working out so well, at least under President Barack Obama. Tennesssee’s senior senator, Lamar Alexander, is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that reviews TVA board nominees. But Alexander said he has not even been consulted by the Obama White House about appointments to Tennessee’s biggest and most influential federal agency. “What I don’t like is that the Obama administration simply ignores Tennessee’s senators when it decides who ought to be on the Tennessee Valley Authority and I’m not going to let that continue if I have any way to stop it,” Alexander said during an editorial board meeting this week with the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Three more county schools earn Blue Ribbon status (Tennessean)
FRANKIN – Three of Tennessee’s top six schools call Williamson County home. National and state education leaders recently honored Franklin’s Hillsboro Elementary and Middle School, as well as Trinity Elementary School and Brentwood’s Kenrose Elementary School, as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon Schools Program. The three schools were among only six Tennessee schools recognized by the program for 2013. The selections cap months of work by the schools’ administrators, teachers and parents. The process includes interviews with education officials, sharing school demographics and compiling years of student performance data to make a case why the schools should be named among the nation’s best.
More storms could cause flooding in Middle Tennessee (Tennessean)
Rain and storms that have plagued Middle Tennessee for a week will be sticking around for the weekend, and experts at the National Weather Service warn that more heavy downpours could mean flash flooding in some places. The Weather Service issued a statement Friday predicting heavy downpours and gusty winds throughout the weekend. Water was already ponding in some low-lying roadways Friday. A tornado warning was in effect for Williamson County late Friday, but was lifted after 9:15 p.m. More rounds of storms this weekend and early next week will increase the risk of flash flooding. Some storms could become severe late Monday night.
Commuting takes longer for many in Nashville (Tennessean)
The drive from Fairview to Berry Hill used to take Melissa Stephens the better part of an hour on her daily commute. In July, after more than five years and countless hours on the road, the 30-year-old nail salon owner did something about it. She and her husband bought a home in the Woodbine neighborhood and left their Fairview rental behind. Now, her commute takes about six minutes. “We just wanted to get our time back,” she said. “I feel like I’ve gained an entire lifetime back.” More than a third of Nashville-area residents spend more than a half-hour on their daily commutes, according to figures cited by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce in their 2014 Vital Signs report.
Jobs at stake as Volkswagen fills supply chain (Chattanooga Times Free Press)
Volkswagen is ramping up efforts to find parts suppliers for its new sport utility vehicle, and the automaker said it’s talking to companies about locating closer to the Chattanooga assembly plant. “We’re pushing more to come locally,” said Gary Heywood, the factory’s purchasing director. Heywood said VW is trying to find the links to the supply chain for the new midsize SUV that the plant is to start producing in late 2016. The $900 million investment is expected to create 2,000 more jobs at the plant that already employs 2,400 workers. Prospective suppliers already have started visiting the Scenic City.
Tax abatement approved for reported Mt. Juliet FedEx project (Tennessean)
Wilson County will offer a three-year tax abatement for an industrial facility proposed in Mt. Juliet that sources say would be for FedEx. The proposal, dubbed Project Conviction, would build a distribution center just over 300,000 square feet along Interstate 40 near Beckwith Road. The Mt. Juliet Planning Commission gave its approval in September. The county’s budget committee approved the three-year tax abatement after a request for five years failed with a 2-2 tie vote. The three-year abatement, approved unanimously, is a cost savings of about $1.24 million. The abatement does not need county commission approval.
Innpack manufacturing leaves Memphis (Commercial Appeal)
A food packaging manufacturer will move its local operations and 23 jobs to Olive Branch from Memphis after months of negotiations, officials announced Friday. Innpack Inc., headquartered in Seoul, Korea, will occupy a former Owens-Corning plant at 10511 High Point, off Hacks Cross Road near A&B Distributing Co. The manufacturer currently rents a facility at 2100 Troyer in Memphis. The Olive Branch site is a purchase and represents a $2 million corporate investment. The new site will give Innpack a larger space and opportunity to modernize. The Mississippi Development Authority provided $100,000 in building improvement funds and one-time relocation costs, said MDA spokeswoman Tammy Craft. The city of Olive Branch and DeSoto County provided assistance in the form of tax exemptions.
Free Press Editorial: Say ‘Yes’ to judges plan, vets’ fundraisers (Chatt TFP)
Tennessee voters have an opportunity on Nov. 4 to engrave in the state constitution the manner in which they select state Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals judges. That manner, embodied on the ballot as Amendment 2, calls for judges to be appointed by the governor, confirmed or rejected by the General Assembly, and then retained or rejected by voters at the end of their eight-year terms. The legislative portion of the plan is the only difference from the current state plan. It’s a plan that allows input from the executive branch and the legislative branch and then puts the ultimate choice in the hands of the people. It’s a sensible plan, and we endorse its passage.
Times editorial: Keep politics away from judges, say no to more gambling (TFP)
Vote yes to Amendment 2 and keep Tennessee Supreme Court justices and appellate judges above the partisan politics fray. The heart of this question is about who chooses judges. Currently, the state constitution says it’s up to voters to choose judges in the Supreme and appellate courts, but that’s not how it’s really done because in recent years there have been numerous legal challenges to the way Tennessee selects appellate judges. A legislative fix since 1994 has been a “merit-selection system” by the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission. Under this system, the governor selects state judicial replacements from a group of nominees presented to him by the commission. Justices go on to serve eight-year terms, after which they may seek another term in a general voter-retention election.
Editorial: Grant helps U of M take big step in research (Commercial Appeal)
The University of Memphis’ landing of a $10.8 million federal research grant lets the university take a big step in pursuing its leadership’s goal of making the university a major research institution. The prestige of receiving this grant — the largest federal research grant the university has received — from the National Institutes of Health should not be underestimated. Beyond that, though, the grant has the potential to reap other dividends, such as attracting top graduate students and positioning the university in the top tier of researchers mining what is labeled big data. That could be good news for Memphis if the U of M’s research in this field spins off businesses and high-tech jobs in Memphis.
Columnist: Haslam has the strategy wrong on Common Core (Tennessean)
If Common Core education standards come crashing to earth next year when the legislature reconvenes — and it looks like they might — Gov. Bill Haslam will need to look no further than his campaign for re-election to figure out when he lost that fight. This is a moment when politics matter. And the governor, despite his professed support for the standards, has the strategy wrong. That won’t hurt his re-election chances. He’s running against a Democratic nominee, Charlie Brown, who is this year’s not-ready-for-prime-time major party candidate. Haslam is going to win big. But that would still be true if Haslam chose to be more vocal about his support for the Common Core standards.
Columnist: Another bid for Flinn (Commercial Appeal)
Halfway through coffee with George Flinn one recent morning, I asked this: Why do you keep running for office? “Because I see things that can be changed,” he said, hardly pausing. “And I want to be an agent of change, for the better,” he said. “It’s kind of what I do. I’m a healer.” Flinn, 71-year-old former County Commissioner, is one for whom the label “perennial candidate” must now be considered. The easy shorthand is he’s only in this for vanity, spending millions of his own personal wealth in failed bids to represent the 8th District in the U.S. House (lost to Rep. Stephen Fincher in the 2010 Republican primary), the 9th District in the House (lost to Rep. Steve Cohen in the 2012 general election) and the U.S. Senate (lost to Sen. Lamar Alexander in the 2014 GOP primary).