This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
While we come from different political parties, we share a deep gratitude for having served as governor of our great state. We also come together this election season, along with many others, to strongly encourage all Tennesseans to vote YES on Amendment 2. Amendment 2 is the judicial selection amendment to our state constitution, and it is important. Passing Amendment 2 will bring clarity and certainty to the way Tennesseans choose the 29 appellate court judges who serve statewide in Tennessee. These include the five justices on the Supreme Court, the 12 judges on the Court of Appeals and the 12 judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals. Amendment 2 does not change the selection process for trial court judges, who will continue to run in local elections.
Four years ago, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam came out strong in his first bid to be governor of Tennessee. He had to fight off two tough rivals for his party’s nomination before going on to vanquish the son of a popular former governor in the general election. With that much opposition, could Haslam have imagined that he would have such as easy path to re-election in 2014? No disrespect to Haslam’s six opponents: We applaud the willingness to serve by Charles Brown, Shaun Crowell, Isa Infante, Steve Damon Coburn, John Jay Hooker and Daniel T. Lewis. But Haslam’s grasp on the reins of office seems only firmer with time. With early voting underway and only 16 days to go in the election, we give credit to Haslam for his administration’s successes and urge him along a different path where he has stumbled.
Andre Jones is making more money a year and a half out of college than he ever would have solely on the merits of his geography degree. When the 25-year-old was laid off from his job as a digital mapper, he decided to do something about his nascent interest in building a website. Jones started taking online courses in coding languages and spent the past summer at an intensive boot camp for coders. He had three job offers by the end of June. Now he makes double his previous technician salary as a developer for a Pittsburgh-based start-up called Geospatial Corporation. “The job market is really strong and they desperately need people,” Jones says of the exponential growth in companies looking for anyone with tech, engineering and computer skills. And those aren’t the only kinds of jobs companies are desperate to fill.
Kingsport City Schools is partnering with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to have a teacher leadership graduate program. Plans are for the program to being in the fall of 2015 at the Kingsport Center for Higher Education downtown and KCS facilities, with instructors to be credentialed KCS personnel and UT faculty. KCS chose UT from among four formal proposals. The other three proposals came from East Tennessee State Unvieristy, Lincoln Memorial University and Tusculum College, KCS officials said. “All had strengths and were strongly considered,” KCS spokesman Andy True said Wednesday. Assistant Superintendent Dory Creech told the Board of Education at a Tuesday work session that KCS sought a partnership with an area higher education institution to develop and implement a graduate degree program that would align with the vision and system goal to provide committed and innovative educators to KCS students and stakeholders.
The Sharp sisters came to the polls together on Saturday, but they left split on what is this election year’s most widely watched and divisive issue — Tennessee’s first ever vote on abortion. Kristen Sharp, 23, of Hermitage, said she voted for Amendment 1, which would change the Tennessee Constitution to grant state lawmakers power to set new restrictions on abortion. But her older sister, Kim Sharp, 27, did just the opposite, and thus voted to keep Tennessee’s current abortion protections in place. “I understand it should be regulated, but it doesn’t specify the regulations,” Kim Sharp said. “That just makes it kind of confusing.” Lacking a high-profile statewide race during November’s midterm election, Amendment 1 is topping the attention of voters this year.
The inescapable smell of corn on the cob and freshly smoked barbecue sweetened the mid-October air as U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander took the stage beneath a tent in a city park. The country is in trouble, the two-term senator warned the Republican crowd, yet the Democrat who wants to replace him in the Senate is a slick-talking trial lawyer — the kind you’d hire if you were a cocaine smuggler and who, if elected, would be one more vote for the misguided agenda of President Barack Obama. “Let’s send a message to Washington — we don’t want one more vote for Obama to take the country down the wrong direction it’s heading in today,” Alexander concluded, drawing cheers and a standing ovation at the GOP get-out-the-vote rally last week. A few hours earlier, halfway across the state, Democrat Gordon Ball hardly looked the part of the slick-talking trial lawyer as he shopped for votes in less-than-animated fashion.
With just more than a week before the two candidates seeking to represent Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District meet for a head-to-head debate, the candidates say they expect to stick to issues — and keep it clean. Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and Democratic challenger Mary Headrick will meet on Oct. 27 for a live debate produced by WTCI, the local PBS affiliate, and the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Fleischmann’s camp says the Ooltewah Republican is looking forward to the discussion. “I’m expecting a lively and cordial debate that will highlight the differences between Congressman Fleischmann and Mary Headrick,” said spokesman Brian O’Shaughnessy.
Sara McFadden decided she needed to meet her new neighbors. After all, they figure to be around for a while. Some of the 2,000 lake sturgeon that were released into the French Broad River Saturday, as part of an ongoing cooperative reintroduction program in Tennessee, could live to be 150 years old. The fish release, sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Tennessee Clean Water Network, was the highlight of SturgeonFest 2014. The family-friendly event offered attendees the opportunity to learn more about the reintroduction of the ancient sturgeon into Tennessee’s waters through activities, educational material and up-close-and-personal interaction with the striking, elongated fish. “They look prehistoric,” said McFadden, who lives across the river in Sevierville. “They were here when dinosaurs were,” said Ed Scott, a retired fisheries biologist with TVA who attended Saturday’s event.
Dozens of people gathered on Springfield’s courthouse square Saturday to rally against a federally-mandated rezoning plan for Robertson County schools. The rally was spearheaded by a group of parents who oppose the rezoning measure and are considering a lawsuit to block it if the school board votes in favor of it. On Saturday, the parents group handed out stickers and yard signs at the rally as a way to foster unity on the issue within the community heading into a week that will see three of the district’s six public forums. They are being held throughout the county as a way for parents to discuss the possible rezoning. “I’m pleased with the turnout and I think we’re all on the same page,” said Lisa Smalling, a member of the parents group.
Doubtless the most controversial matter on our statewide ballot next month is the notion of granting the Legislature authority to ignore the Tennessee Constitution — or at least the state Supreme Court’s interpretation of it — in writing new restrictions on abortion. Constitutional Amendment 1 is on the ballot as a result of many years of dedicated efforts by anti-abortion activists that, after much convoluted maneuvering, led to lopsided approval by state legislators for putting the matter to a statewide vote. All Republicans in the Legislature approved the measure and many perceived it as a means of generating a big turnout among Republican voters, generally perceived as anti-abortion. As things have turned out, Amendment 1 has clearly become a focus of Democratic hopes for bolstering their turnout in a mid-term election year — a year when there is no voting for president of the United States. And Tennessee’s remnant Democrats have been lacking in a reason to go to the polls anyway. Republicans are going to win everything, you know, so why bother?