This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee led the nation in jobs created by foreign investment in 2013, according to the new Global Location Trends Report by the IBM Institute. The annual report measures job commitments due to direct investments by foreign companies. Foreign companies have 864 operations in Tennessee, representing more than 116,000 jobs and an investment of more than $30.1 billion. The state was No. 1 in terms of raw number of jobs and jobs per capita, according to the report, which is held up as an industry standard in the economic development community. Tennessee runs economic development recruitment offices in Canada and Japan, along with export assistance offices in Mexico, the U.K., the European Union and China.
Tennessee workers are taking on a growing foreign accent. Nearly 40 percent of the new jobs recruited to the Volunteer State last year came from foreign companies. A new study released Friday ranked Tennessee as the number one state in the country for recruiting jobs from foreign-owned firms in 2013. The study by IBM’s global business services unit found that while foreign direct investment declined around the globe, the United States remained the world’s top destination country with foreign investment jobs rising in 2013 by 6 percent. With its central location, relatively low cost of living and history of foreign investment, Tennessee attracted the biggest number of jobs from foreign-based companies last year.
Tennessee created more jobs through foreign investment than any other state in the Union in 2013 and the U.S. government sought to bolster the state’s efforts in 2014 by bringing ambassadors from 22 nations to Middle Tennessee. Dubbed “Experience America,” the Nashville trip was the 15th organized to show foreign ambassadors the U.S. outside of the Beltway, said Peter Selfridge, U.S. chief of Protocol with the State Department. “We’ve seen bigger and more quintessential American cities …” he said. “It was nice to see quintessential Americana, the quintessential South on this trip. This is a different side of America that they don’t get to see in D.C.”
The retiring director of the state board of education will be replaced by one of Commissioner Kevin Huffman’s assistant commissioners. The board has hired Sara Heyburn, who is now the head of teachers and leaders in the Department of Education. Heyburn has had a tough job in recent years playing the point person for the state’s controversial teacher evaluation system. The chairman of the board of education says he’s been impressed with Heyburn’s ability to build consensus. She does know what it’s like to be in the classroom. She started out as a teacher in Jefferson County, Kentucky and then Williamson County Schools. The board of education – which is appointed by the governor – performs a number of functions, like approving textbooks and hearing charter school appeals.
A state agency has been sending inaccurate letters to Tennesseans this year informing them they don’t qualify for Medicaid. The letters are automatically generated by an outdated computer system when someone applies to the Department of Human Services for food stamps. The computer makes eligibility determinations according to old income guidelines — not the new ones set by the Affordable Care Act. And the letters are coming from an agency that as of Jan. 1 was supposed to stop making Medicaid eligibility determinations for TennCare. “We were aware of the issue and are currently assessing the ability to make modifications without adversely impacting other important services that the legacy system supports,” said Devin Stone, a communications officer for DHS.
A concerned citizen’s tip pointed police toward the final Woodland Hills escapee Friday night, hours after he was named as the suspect in a shooting that hurt two Tennessee State University freshmen. De’Mario Fisher, one of 32 youths who escaped Woodland Hills Sept. 1, was arrested at a duplex on Moorewood Court. In addition to charges related to the escape, the teen will face charges of attempted criminal homicide, especially aggravated robbery and unlawful gun possession in connection with Wednesday night’s shooting near the fringes of the TSU campus in North Nashville. At a press conference Friday afternoon, Metro police Chief Steve Anderson urged the public to help bring Fisher into custody.
Parents and trick-or-treaters had one more reason to feel safe Friday night: The Tennessee Department of Correction visited every registered sex offender to make sure they weren’t violating any Halloween rules. “Operation Blackout” began just before 5 p.m. in Jackson, when TDOC officers and local police officials met to discuss what their goals were for the night. Gina Rinks, Program Supervision Unit manager, told officers that their objective was to go inside of the house to make sure there were no technical or law violations. Rinks told officers that the offender would need to open all doors and closets for them to check. Officers were also told to check other buildings or sheds on the offender’s property.
On Tuesday, Tennessee voters will have a final chance to weigh in on Amendment 1, a proposed measure that would give state lawmakers more power to regulate and restrict abortions. In television commercials and radio ads, from church pulpits on Sundays and competing news conferences by physicians, faith leaders and celebrities, backers and opponents of the measure have tried to get their conflicting messages out — in some cases leaving voters confused about what the measure would and would not do. Here are some facts about the amendment, abortion in Tennessee and those on both sides of the campaign. What the amendment says: Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.
On Thursday, 102,288 voters cast their ballots, bringing the voter total to 629,487 for the 14-day period, according to the Secretary of State’s election website. That was down 14.6 percent from 2010 levels but represents a steady improvement from the first week, when it seemed that voter turnout would be exceptionally light. Whether the explanation for lighter turnout is that voters are waiting longer to make a decision because of the four constitutional amendments on the ballot, or there is widespread disinterest because of the lack of sexy, competitive races, will be determined at the polls Tuesday. “While there has been a steady trend toward early voting, we think voters may be taking longer to make up their minds this year,” said Blake Fontenay, communications director for the Secretary of State.
Early voting for the Nov. 4 general election ended Thursday 22 percent off the pace of the most recent midterm vote in 2010. The Shelby County Election Commission reported 84,723 voters cast their ballots in the 14 days of countywide early voting, plus absentee voting and on-site ballots cast at retirement homes. In 2010, 109,232 voters cast early ballots. This year’s early vote number was bolstered by 16,557 ballots cast on Thursday alone. Suburban early voting sites saw the most votes. New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Germantown accounted for 8,115 of the early votes. Collierville Church of Christ and Bethel Church in Bartlett also saw heavy turnout.
Early voting for Tuesday’s election concluded Thursday night with a final count of 27,823 out of 155,795 registered voters participating, the Rutherford County Election Commission reported. “Every early voting precinct had lines as when the polls closed at their respective time,” said Alan Farley, the administrator for the election commission. “The late rush of voters gives me hopes that we may have a decent turnout on Tuesday.” The final day of early voting had 4,602 voters, which was by far the biggest turn out day, Farley added. The total early voting count includes 11,773 votes cast in the Murfreesboro City Council election. Another 4,622 voted in the Smyrna election for mayor and Town Council candidates, and 2,639 voted in the La Vergne Board of Mayor and Aldermen election.
A newly released poll shows passage of a proposed anti-income tax amendment in the Tennessee Constitution is by no means a slam dunk for passage with only 30 percent of registered voters saying they intend to vote yes on it. The Middle Tennessee State University Poll also shows the two top Republicans on Tuesday’s ballot — Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander — comfortably ahead of their Democratic challengers in Tuesday’s election. Still, Haslam has only 50 percent backing compared to 19 percent for his little-known Democratic opponent, Charles V. “Charlie” Brown, who has spent virtually nothing, has no television ads and isn’t really running a campaign. And the best thing going for two-termer Alexander, who has just 42 percent of voters saying they’ll vote for him, appears to be Democrat Gordon Ball, who has only 26 percent support.
Surprisingly, the outcome of the anti-income-tax constitutional amendment on Tuesday’s ballot is uncertain, according to the new MTSU Poll released Friday by Middle Tennessee State University. Not surprisingly, Gov. Bill Haslam held a substantial lead over his Democratic challenger, Charles V. “Charlie” Brown, a retiree from Oakdale in Morgan County, according to the poll conducted Oct. 22-26. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was leading Democrat Gordon Ball, the poll indicates. The MTSU Poll uses professional interviewers with the polling firm Issues & Answers Inc. who completed telephone surveys with 600 registered voters across Tennessee.
In the weeks since the first Ebola case diagnosed in the U.S. was revealed in Dallas, local health service officials have scrambled to make sure they’re ready for the virus. Hospitals ran drills and rushed to upgrade protective gear. Nurses practiced taking off special suits slung with chocolate syrup that mimicked bodily fluids. Health department officials have filled their schedules with meetings about the still-rare disease. The result, they say, is a local health system that’s ready to handle isolated cases. But hospital and health care officials say no amount of preparedness will prevent the massive strain that would likely be placed on a hospital if an infected patient arrived in Chattanooga. U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander hosted a fact-finding roundtable at Catholic Health Initiatives Memorial Hospital on Friday.
In a Halloween news release, state Republicans say Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Gordon Ball has egg on his face after raffling off chances to don a chicken suit on the campaign trail. In turn, Ball accuses Republican opponent Lamar Alexander of playing dress-up rather than actually acting to solve problems. The Tennessee Republican Party said Friday it is filing a complaint against Ball with the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gambling, alleging that his campaign conducted an unauthorized raffle. State party Chairman Chris Devaney said in a news release that the Ball campaign sent fundraising emails saying that people who donated $5 to $20 could get their names entered into a drawing to wear a chicken costume.
The State Board of Education on Friday denied the appeal of Exalt Academy of Springfield’s application to open a charter school in Springfield, but not without noting the need for such a school in Robertson County. Before approving the denial, State Board of Education member Wendy Tucker said from reviewing Exalt Academy’s application, she saw a “clear need” expressed by the Springfield community for another “high-quality choice.” “I hope that this group, or some other group is encouraged to try to work with that county and come up with some options there,” Tucker said. “I looked at the achievement data and the kids there could use it.” In April, a Springfield steering committee teamed with Arkansas-based charter school group Exalt Education to submit an application for the school, designed to prepare low-income students in Springfield for competitive colleges and advanced careers, according to the application.