This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Oscar C. Carr III as chancellor for Shelby County. In a Thursday news release, Haslam says Carr, of Memphis, is replacing Kenny Armstrong, who had been chancellor of the 30th Judicial District. Armstrong was recently named to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Chancellors serve as the judges for the chancery courts of each judicial district in Tennessee. The 63-year-old Carr has been a member of the law firm Glankler Brown since 1976, with a practice in litigation and an emphasis on business, construction, environmental and other civil litigation. Carr also has handled mediations. Haslam calls Carr an experienced attorney with an impressive track record.
Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Oscar C. Carr III of Memphis as a new judge in Shelby County Chancery Court. He replaces Kenny Armstrong, who was recently named to the state Court of Appeals. Carr, 63, has been a member of the Glankler Brown law firm since 1976, with a practice in litigation and an emphasis on business, construction, environmental and other civil matters. “I am pleased to make this appointment with such an experienced attorney,” Haslam said. “He has an impressive track record….” Carr, who became a partner at Glankler Brown in 1982, said he was “honored and gratified” by the appointment to the 30th Judicial District.
Attorney Oscar C. Carr III is the newest Shelby County Chancery Court judge. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Thursday, Oct. 16, his appointment of Carr to the vacancy on the court created when Chancellor Kenny Armstrong was appointed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals earlier this year. Carr, a partner at Glankler Brown PLLC since 1982, was one of three finalists recommended to Haslam by a judicial nominating commission. Carr earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia in 1973 and his law degree from Emory University in 1976. He then went to work as an associate attorney at Glankler Brown.
Some big-name Tennessee politicians were in town Thursday endorsing Amendment 1 for the upcoming elections. Governor Bill Haslam, Senator Lamar Alexander and Representative Jimmy Duncan say they support the amendment. If the amendment is approved, an abortion would not be considered a “right” protected by the state constitution. It would also allow the state legislature to make rules that restrict abortions. “I think actually, the people who support the right to life are actually the true pro-choice people in this country because they want young women to know there are other choices than snuffing out the life of an innocent, unborn child,” said Rep. Jimmy Duncan.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s free tuition program is in need of mentors. They are a key part of the so-called Tennessee Promise initiative to cover full tuition at two-year colleges for any high school graduate. So far, more than 35,000 high school students have applied for the program. The state’s goal was 20,000 applications. However, the state has still not reached its goal of 6,000 mentors. They receive training and serve an hour a month to help Tennessee Promise enrollees with items such as signing up for classes and following through on required financial aid paperwork. Many enrollees are first-generation college students. Mike Krause was appointed by Haslam to oversee the program.
Local mentors are needed to help guide Sumner students through their education at Volunteer State Community College as part of the Tennessee Promise program. On Tuesday, COMPASS, an organization that supports Sumner County Schools, will host a sign-up session where more people can learn about the program and how to help. Students must apply by Nov. 1 for the Tennessee Promise program, which offers two years of tuition-free education at community colleges like Vol State or tech schools like Tennessee College of Applied Technology Hartsville. Mentors help students navigate the college admissions process and ensure they complete Tennessee Promise requirements in order to receive the scholarship.
The Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Dickson will open its doors to high school seniors and their families on Tennessee Promise Scholarship on Saturday. to allow the students use of college computers to apply for the Tennessee Promise scholarship, apply for school and get financial aid information. Both the Dickson main campus and the Clarksville extension campus will be open that Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and tours of programs will be available along with free pizza for lunch. “Tennessee’s high school seniors have an extraordinary opportunity before them…free tuition at a technical or community college,” said Gary A. Fouts, student services coordinator for TCAT Dickson.
For years, Roslynn and Raven Beverley have heard how difficult it would be financially to go through college at the same time. Seniors at Oakland High, the twin sisters said Tennessee Promise came at the right time. “All of our lives, it’s always been paying for the two of us. We finally get a break,” Raven Beverley said. “People always told our mom, ‘You’re going to have to pay for two kids in college at the same time. It’s a relief,” said Roslynn Beverley. Tennessee Promise offers two years of tuition-free community college or technical center training to Tennessee high school graduates beginning with the Class of 2015. Nov. 1 is the deadline for students to apply. Registration can be completed at tnachieves.org.
The concept of tuition-free community college is picking up steam. Chicago this month followed Tennessee with the creation of a new community-college scholarship for high school graduates. Meanwhile, student demand in Tennessee has been enormous. The Tennessean, a Nashville newspaper, reported that in just two months 35,000 high school seniors have applied to the program, which is called the Tennessee Promise. The state appears likely to double its original estimate of 20,000 applications. “We are going to get a lot of new people,” said Karen Bowyer, president of Dyersburg State Community College. Despite the enthusiasm, the “free” community college plans have critics.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration wants nearly $70 million in federal funding for Nashville and Shelby County to expand early childhood education, but it won’t go toward expanding the state’s current prekindergarten program. If awarded the full amount requested, Metro Nashville Public Schools plans to add 1,600 pre-K seats by 2018. The Shelby County Consortium would add 3,580 seats over the same time period. With matching local public and private funding, there will be $109 million committed to opening 2,230 new preschool programs and improving a total of nearly 3,000 existing seats, according to the grant application. “We would welcome any extra funding for pre-K,” said Joe Bass, a spokesman for Metro Schools.
After four consecutive months of rising unemployment, the jobless rate dropped last month in both Tennessee and Georgia as the number of new jobless claims sank nationwide last week to a 14-year low. The monthly household survey of workers continued to show elevated rates of joblessness in Georgia and Tennessee compared with the U.S. as a whole. But a broader employer survey found both states added jobs over the past year at a faster clip than the United States as a whole. “The data from the household survey and the employer data continue to be conflicted, but we’re clearly moving in the right direction with a better economy,” said Dr. Bill Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee.
Tennessee’s unemployment rate stood at 7.3 percent in September, down from 8.2 percent for the month one year ago, according to preliminary state figures released Thursday. It marked the first decline in four months for the state jobless rate. It was a small dip from the 7.4 percent revised rate for August, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development. Nonfarm employment in the state grew by 60,700 jobs, to a total of more than 2.75 million, compared to a year earlier. Nationally, the preliminary September unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 percent from 7.2 percent one year ago.
By a slim margin, the state’s unemployment rate improved in September. The Tennessee preliminary unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in September, according to the Tennessee Labor and Workforce Development, just a tenth of a percentage point lower than last month’s revised rate of 7.4 percent. Though the improvement was small, this breaks a 4 month-long streak of negative jobs numbers from the state. So which industries gave the state the lift? Education, manufacturing and government employment saw an additional 2,300 and 1,900 and 2,100 jobs, respectively. Education and government positions had been bleeding jobs consistently up until September.
Thousands of drivers remember their white-knuckle grasp on the steering wheel and the acrid smell of overtaxed vehicle brakes as they traveled west during the evening rush hour on Interstate 40/75 around the Cedar Bluff exit. The sudden backup of traffic was the result of the bottleneck of I-40/75 at Lovell Road, where the road narrowed from four or five lanes to three, causing a rush-hour roulette of how far east traffic would clog up each afternoon. With about $2.9 million, state transportation officials were able to rectify the problem by adding a 2-mile-long through lane from Pellissippi Parkway to Lovell Road and widening the exit ramp for westbound drivers to Lovell Road. While the project is slated for completion Nov. 15, drivers already are deriving the benefit of that extra lane with fewer snarls in the evening.
Chief Al Ansley and members of the Clarksville Police Department honored their partners in Operation Defiance with an appreciation luncheon and presentation at Freedom Point Conference Center on Wednesday. Operation Defiance began about three years ago with a grant from the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration’s Office of Criminal Justice Programs. Clarksville was one of six Tennessee cities selected for a Targeted Community Crime Reduction Project. Each city had to undertake an extensive data-driven planning process prior to receiving a grant that partially funded the project.
Debbie Vincent’s twin daughters knew exactly how much scholarship money they would receive from the University of Alabama before the seniors at Franklin High School in Middle Tennessee even applied. “It’s on their website — you know what you get based on your GPA and scores,” said Vincent, who was on the University of Tennessee campus Wednesday for a college tour with her daughters, Madelyn and Meagan. “We thought, though, is this really it? But after they applied and got in, they got a scholarship letter confirming it. Some places have early decisions, so it’s good to know as much of that information as possible early.”
The Governor’s Highway Safety Office is teaming up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to spread awareness about teen driver safety. GHSO and partners across the state are sponsoring educational events at high schools from Oct. 19 to 25. Last year during Teen Driver Safety Week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched its “5 to Drive” campaign addressing the five most dangerous and deadly behaviors for teen drivers. The idea behind the campaign is to give parents the words to use when they talk with their teens about driving. In 2013, more than 39,000 crashes in Tennessee involved a driver age 20 or younger.
For several decades, a Tennessee Commission and the governor have picked the 29 judges who sit on state appeals courts. Amendment 2, on the November ballot, is a vote to change the process in part by removing that commission. Unlike many decisions in this election, a vote in favor of Amendment 2 is uniting many Democrats and Republicans. It centers on keeping the selection with the governor, but winning the blessing of state lawmakers, and still allowing voters to retain or replace judges at the end of their term. We think it is very important we have a judiciary that’s about more like being a referree or an umpire instead of making a political decision,” said Gov. Bill Haslam, (R) Tennessee. Political experts said Amendment 2 centers on process and removes the current role of a commission.
Tennessee Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey has been named president of the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries. Humphrey, who has been served as chief parliamentarian in the state Senate since 1999, was named head of the national group at its annual professional development seminar in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last week. The American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries was founded in 1943 to improve legislative administration and enhance communication among clerks around the country. More than 300 clerks, secretaries and legislative support staffers belong to the group. As president, Humphrey will work both domestically and abroad to improve working relations among clerks.
Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Gordon Ball in their first and only joint appearance of Tennessee’s U.S. Senate race on Thursday attacked each other as unsuited to hold the office. Alexander, a former governor and who is seeking a third Senate term, directly went on the offensive at the start of the one-hour forum hosted by the Farm Bureau at Tennessee Tech University, returning often to his familiar criticism of Ball as being “one more vote for the Obama agenda.” Ball, a Knoxville attorney, insisted he’s a centrist Democrat and pledged that if elected he wouldn’t vote for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada for another term in charge. “My party has left me and gone to the left,” Ball said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democratic challenger Gordon Ball laid out differences between themselves Thursday, each jabbing at the other in their only joint appearance of the election. Alexander went on the attack against Ball as a trial lawyer in his opening statement. “My opponent has a reputation as a very good lawyer in Knoxville. If you’re a cocaine smuggler and you’re guilty, he’s the one you’d want to hire to persuade the jury that you’re not. He might try to fool you today in terms of whether or not he’s one more vote for (President) Obama. “One difference between my opponent and me is I made my money being a capitalist. He made his money suing capitalists,” Alexander said.
Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander on Thursday added a new rule to his “Little Plaid Book” of 311 rules about running for office. Rule No. 312: Catch your opponent flatfooted in your only joint — and nontelevised — campaign appearance. In an hourlong forum put on by the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation leadership, the 74-year-old two-term senator fired a barrage of stinging barbs at Ball, 65, a successful Knoxville trial lawyer. “If you’re a cocaine smuggler, he’s the one to hire,” Alexander said. “One difference between my opponent and me is I made my money being a capitalist; he made his money suing capitalists.” He also charged that Ball would be “one more vote for the Obama agenda” and accused him of plagiarism after his campaign lifted talking points verbatim from sitting Democratic senators’ websites.
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) questioned officials from the Obama administration Thursday about their response to the Ebola outbreak during a hearing at the Rayburn House office buildingin Washington, D.C. held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Witnesses testifying at the hearing included Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Blackburn serves as Vice Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Blackburn asked Dr. Frieden specifically about Ebola medical waste, the handling and disposing of that waste by medical facilities and the CDC.
When the Dallas Police Department sent out a tweet this summer alerting the public that Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib had been arrested for public intoxication, the social media world lit up. There was only one problem: Aqib Talib wasn’t busted. It was his brother, Yaqub Talib. The department tweeted an apology within hours, followed by a press release. But the incident showed how quickly local or state government officials can commit a social media blunder that can lead to embarrassment and retractions. As more government agencies and elected officials scramble to put the word out on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and in blogs, some are learning the hard way that they might need to take a step back and rethink the way they use social media.
When hackers made their way past hardware giant Home Depot’s security system last month, gaining access to credit card information for up to 60 million customers, it was considered the mother of all data breaches. But it’s only the latest in a growing series of hacking scandals. Between 2005 and 2014, there have been 4,695 breaches exposing 633 million records, according to the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center. The average cost of a breach to an organization is estimated at $3.5 million. With no national data breach disclosure law on the books, retailers such as Home Depot, Target and Neiman Marcus (which were both victims of massive breaches last year) are forced to adhere to a patchwork of 47 state laws.
The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted more time for the federal government’s response to the appeal filed in August by attorneys for the three Plowshares protesters who were convicted of felony charges in the July 28, 2012 break-in at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. Following the second time extension, the brief by federal prosecutors is now due Oct. 22. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore this week said the government’s response would be filed soon. After attorneys for the protesters file their response to the brief, the federal appeals court in Cincinnati will set a date for oral arguments. The protesters — Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed — were convicted and sentenced on federal felony charges for the 2012 intrusion at Y-12.
You might recall Chattanooga’s own Dorothy Cooper, who at 96 in 2011 became the cause célèbre of voter suppression. She was the kind of real female, minority, Democratic-leaning voter Republicans so feared that they claimed voter IDs were needed in order to combat virtually non-existent voter fraud in Tennessee during the run-up to Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election bid. Cooper, who had outlived two husbands and voted some 70 times in her long life, sparked a national firestorm in October that year when she was denied a photo ID at a local Driver Service Center — a photo ID that she and 500,000 other Tennesseans did not have. The new Tennessee law required residents to show a photo ID to vote.
For even any supposedly “nonpartisan” government office like the Government Accountability Office to suggest that Tennessee’s voter ID law suppressed the vote in 2012 in any measurable way is patently ridiculous. To be able to accurately say that’s true, the motivation of every voter who went to the polls in 2008 but didn’t go in 2012 in the Volunteer State and any other state to which it was compared would have to be examined. Clearly, it was not. Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett is mad about a recently released GAO study that alleges that, and he has a right to be. He points out, for instance, that the four other states to which Tennessee was compared had “hot button” issues or races in 2012 that drew voters and Tennessee did not. He also notes that Democrats repudiated their 2012 candidate for U.S. Senate, anti-gay rights activist Mark Clayton, so many voters were likely to stay home.