This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam began a day of statewide travel in Knoxville at the diner where he announced his run for the state’s top office more than five years ago. The Republican spoke to a small crowd in Pete’s Coffee Shop downtown with his wife, Crissy, standing nearby. Scents of coffee and bacon wafted through the air over the din of silverware clanging on ceramic. A recent poll from East Tennessee State University showed Haslam with 51 percent support among voters, his Democratic challenger Charlie Brown holding 18 percent, and 30 percent of voters undecided. Election Day is Tuesday. Inside the eatery Haslam touted statewide gains in education and job climate, urged voters to turn out and even reminisced a little.
Governor Bill Haslam made a stop in Knoxville on the last day before election day. Haslam, who is up for reelection this season, stopped at Pete’s Coffee Shop in downtown. Haslam seemed to be in good spirits. He explained he chose Pete’s because when he had first announced he was running for governor more than five years ago, he did it at Pete’s Coffee Shop. Haslam told reporters that a base of supporters in Knoxville helped him get to where he was today. “You can’t run for governor unless the people where you’re from really help you,” he said. “The truth is you have to start out with a base. When I started running for governor, I started with a base of people in Knoxville who really wanted to help, and without them, there’s no way I’d be governor.”
After stops in Knoxville, the Tri-Cities, Chattanooga and Nashville, Gov. Bill Haslam arrived in Memphis Monday afternoon with a realization: It was the final campaign stop he’d make in running for governor. So he opened by noting that and thanking supporters, many of them longtime backers, at an event at Whimsy Cookie Company on Poplar. Haslam first said he’d seek the job, limited to two consecutive four-year terms, in 2009. “There is something about when you realize, this is my last day that I’ll campaign for governor,” Haslam said after the event, in which he was joined by his wife, Crissy, a Memphis native. “It’s mixed with a little bit of sentiment, but also a whole lot of gratitude.”
Incumbent Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam promised continued improvement in economic development and education as he asked supporters for four more years in office during a rally at Tri-City Aviation on Monday. “We’re really here to remind people to vote,” Haslam, a Republican, told supporters as his wife Crissy stood close by in the facility’s remodeled lobby. “As you all have seen, voter turnout is actually kind of low across the state. People have worked too hard … too many people have fought for the right for us to go vote. My main message is to go vote. My second one is to please go vote for me. We would be very grateful if you would do that.” After early voting ended last week, the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office reported 629,485 people had cast ballots compared to 736,885 in 2010.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam makes one final push to get voters to the polls Tuesday. He was at Rib and Loin in Chattanooga Monday. There, he greeted residents and highlighted his top priorities. Governor Haslam says he wants to continue his education initiatives, including the Tennessee Promise. He also talked about the importance of balancing a budget, and helping the unemployed and under employed in rural areas. Governor Haslam adds, “Chrissy and I are incredibly honored that you allow us to do this. Literally, every day I walk up the steps of the capitol if I’m in town, and I can’t believe the honor of getting to do this. We would love to do it for four more years and would ask for your vote, and please make certain that your friends and family members all go vote as well.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was in Blountville Monday to stress the importance of voting in today’s election and report that 56,000 high school seniors have applied for Tennessee Promise — a program that offers two years of free tuition at any Tennessee community college. Haslam, a Republican, is seeking a second term and faces six challengers, including Democrat Charles V. Brown, in today’s election. “The estimate is that about 50 percent of people who will vote in the race have already voted … and that means that 50 percent of the people haven’t voted,” Haslam said during the stop at Tri-City Aviation. “Our job is to make certain that all of those people go out and vote and vote in the right way so that Tennessee can keep moving forward.”
The state has a final count of students who have applied for Tennessee Promise, the last-dollar scholarship that guarantees free community college tuition: 56,571. That accounts for more than 90 percent high school seniors in the state. Candace Ogilvie, a college and career counselor at Antioch High School, says teachers there set aside class time, carted in laptops and had their students fill out the Tennessee Promise application. This was especially helpful, she says, for kids with low test scores who hadn’t been thinking about college. “This was an ‘a-ha’ moment for them,” she says. ” ‘There is opportunity for me, there is hope for me, and I can afford to go as well.’ ” Ogilvie says, to her knowledge, every eligible high school senior at Antioch applied for Tennessee Promise — 300 signups out of the 365-person student class.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is ready for a food fight against Gov. Bill Haslam. Dean launched the sixth annual Metro government-wide food drive and again challenged Haslam to a “food fight” to see whose office can collect the most food for Second Harvest Food Band of Middle Tennessee by Nov. 21. “Over the past five years, we have raised more than 353,000 meals for those in need, while at the same time having a fun, friendly competition between Metro departments and with the governor’s office,” Dean said. Dean is challenging Metro departments to raise 125,000 pounds of food during the drive, the same amount raised in 2012, which was the drive’s most successful year. Last year’s drive brought in 122,000 pounds, enough for 101,000 meals for Davidson County families.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is challenging Gov. Bill Haslam to another “food fight.” The competition, which kicked off Monday and runs through Nov. 21, pits the two offices against each other for who can donate the most food to the Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville. Dean won the competition last year. He is challenging Metro departments to raise 125,000 pounds of food, the same amount raised in 2012, which was the most successful year of the Metro food drive. Last year’s drive brought in 122,000 pounds, enough to provide about 101,000 meals. According to Second Harvest, more than 1 million Tennesseans find themselves in dire need of food.
Tennessee is one of four states that received federal grants for suicide prevention this year. The government awarded the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services two grants totaling $5 million to reduce the rate of suicides. “The rate of suicides in Tennessee has been steadily increasing since the late 1980s,” said E. Douglas Varney, commissioner of the department. “Suicide is a serious public health problem and a subject people are still very hesitant to talk about. These grant awards will allow us to address this threat and save lives.” The department plans to use the grants to educate mental health providers to identify people who may be in crisis and potentially suicidal.
State election officials are reminding voters where they can turn if they have questions or concerns. They say people can call the Division of Elections’ toll free hotline, (877) 850-4959, or visit www.GoVoteTN.com to get information about Tuesday’s elections. There’s also a new smartphone application produced by the division. Highlights of the app include: Election Day polling locations and hours of operation, candidates’ list, county election commission information and access to election results. The app, called GoVoteTN, is available free of charge in the Apple Store and Google Play.
The state will investigate whether Mayor Andy Berke’s office violated Lincoln Park neighborhood residents’ civil rights in an ongoing dispute over a multimillion-dollar road project downtown. The Tennessee Human Rights Commission confirmed in a letter that after reviewing the historic black neighborhood’s concerns, officials decided to conduct a joint investigation with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to make sure Chattanooga was complying with civil rights laws. The Lincoln Park community alleges its rights were violated when city officials decided to use $5.9 million in federal highway funds to extend Central Avenue through their community and city officials made decisions without involving the neighborhood, discriminating against the community.
Some Tennessee voters will decide today on rewriting parts of the state’s constitution, keeping state’s governor and congressional incumbents in office while perhaps adding or subtracting a bit from the Legislature’s Republican supermajority. If turnout on Election Day follows the pattern of early voting, which ended last week, only perhaps a third of Tennessee’s almost 4 million registered voters will be involved in making the decisions. Early voting turnout was down 14.6 percent from the level in 2010, the last midterm election, and, if the same falloff occurs today, overall turnout would fall from 41 percent in 2010 could be below 30 percent. Here’s a rundown on some of the races as things stood on election eve: Republican Lamar Alexander, seeking his third term in the U.S. Senate, downplayed expectations on the size of his anticipated win over Democratic challenger Gordon Ball and seven Independent or third party candidates in a Monday news conference.
Today is Election Day. Tennesseans go to the polls to decide races for governor, U.S. Senate, the General Assembly and changes to the state constitution, among a host of other contests. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Here are 4 storylines to watch. Abortion front and center Perhaps the most closely watched Election Day vote is Amendment 1, a measure that would give state lawmakers more power to regulate abortions. The campaign has drawn big money on both sides, with the “Yes on 1” campaign raising more than $2 million and “Vote No on 1” raising more than $4 million. Most of the funds have poured into television and radio ad campaigns in the weeks leading up to Nov. 4. The outcome is being closely watched on a national level by abortion supporters and opponents.
Tennessee voters in several dozen communities will decide whether supermarkets will be able to sell wine. According to a coalition that’s tracked the petitions, 78 municipalities have collected enough signatures to place a referendum for supermarket wine sales on the ballot. Currently, wine can only be sold in liquor stores. But a state law that passed this year will allow it to be sold by grocery and convenience stores starting in July 2016 if citizens vote to approve the change. Only communities that currently allow package stores or liquor by the drink are eligible to hold votes as long as at least 10 percent of voters in the community signed petitions.
The last of 2014’s three elections promises to be defined just as much by the questions on the ballot as it is by the choices among candidates. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4, across Tennessee, with polls open in Shelby County from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In the last weekend of campaigning, much of the activity centered on the four amendments to the Tennessee Constitution near the top of the ballot, as well as the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races. Meanwhile, voters in Memphis, Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown and Millington will vote on allowing wine sales in food stores effective in July 2016, and Lakeland voters will decide a ballot question on liquor by the drink that could be a preliminary to a later referendum there on wine in food stores. Follow election returns at @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, after the polls close at 7 p.m.
Four big state constitutional amendments are included on every Tennessean’s ballot this election season. The wording on these amendments wasn’t designed for the layperson — even though that’s who will be voting — so here’s a primer on the very basics of Amendment 4 and the main arguments to vote yes or no. For Amendment 1, read here. For Amendment 2, read here. For Amendment 3, read here. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4. Memphis Business Journal does not make endorsements of candidates, referenda or amendments, but we do endorse everyone exercising their right to vote. We’ll see you at the polling place. Amendment 4 What it’s about: Annual lotteries and games of chance to benefit 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations are already legal in Tennessee. Amendment 3 would put it in writing in the state constitution that 501(c)(19) organizations serving veterans are eligible to hold annual lotteries, including bingo, pending authorization of the state legislature.
Amendment 1 What it’s about: Following a 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling, abortion is a protected right in Tennessee. Amendment 1 would put it in writing in the state constitution that abortion is not a right in Tennessee, and therefore that it can be enacted, amended, abridged or repealed by the state government. Argument to vote yes: Tennesseeans should be allowed to work through legislative channels to make pro-life, common-sense reforms to abortion, including requiring informed consent, regulation of abortion facilities or hospitalization requirements Argument to vote no: This amendment puts too much power in the hands of state officials to limit or even ban abortion in Tennessee — including placing limits on abortion in the cases of rape, incest, or the mother’s health — taking choices away from individuals.
The four proposed constitutional amendments on today’s ballot have drawn opponents and supporters alike across the state, but only one — Amendment 1 — has earned widespread attention from religious groups. Amendment 1 seeks to allow Tennessee’s General Assembly to further regulate abortion, which the legislature has been hamstrung from doing since a 2000 state Supreme Court case. And despite an Internal Revenue Service prohibition on churches and other tax-exempt nonprofits from getting involved in politics, election ethics officials say the separation between church and state goes only so far when it comes to ballot issues. Churches and other 501(c)(3) nonprofits can voice their opinions on Amendment 1 largely without fear of losing their tax-exempt status.
Amendment 2 What it’s about: Appellate and state Supreme Court judges are chosen by the governor from a group of three candidates nominated by a committee, and then reconfirmed or rejected by voters every eight years. Amendment 2 would put it in writing in the state constitution that these judges can be appointed directly by the governor, without using a committee, and must be approved or denied by the legislature. The voting public will still vote to keep or replace the judge every eight years. Argument to vote yes: The amendment will clarify an ambiguous process as it is currently stated in the constitution, and it will shore up legal weaknesses that open Tennessee up to challenges that could lead to directly elected judges, and thus increased politicization and outside money influencing the state legal system. Argument to vote no: The amendment gives too much power to the governor and removes an element of impartiality, the nominating committee. There already is outside money in judge elections, so this amendment would not change that.
Amendment 3 What it’s about: Tennessee does not have a state income tax, but the state legislature could vote to enact a tax if enough members voted for it. Amendment 3 would put it in writing in the state constitution that Tennessee cannot have a state income tax. Argument to vote yes: Removing permanently the possibility of an income tax will be good for businesses and families considering moving to Tennessee. Argument to vote no: Tax policy should not be set in stone in the constitution. Other taxes, such as regressive sales taxes or property taxes, may have to be raised or enacted at some point in the future if an income tax is off the table.
The monthly Bill Goodman Gun & Knife Show at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds has just about everything a weapons collector could want: Handguns and high-powered rifles, tomahawks and tasers – in colors that range from survivalist camo to hot pink. But perhaps the most surprising find is at the table of dealer Eva Simmons: a 1970s-era switchblade, the kind with a black-and-silver handle and a curlicue guard. These were illegal in Tennessee until recently. It’s just a one-button deploy,” Simmons says as she shows off one. “Just your regular switchblades that you see in ‘West Side Story.’” Gangs, street fights. Sharks and Jets. Knife enthusiasts say that one Broadway musical cemented switchblades’ bad reputation, and took them off shelves for a generation.
Republican U.S. Sen Lamar Alexander said Monday he’s not concerned about the margin of the outcome of Tuesday’s election — so long as he emerges the winner. Alexander, who faces Democratic challenger Gordon Ball, was among the candidates and advocates making their final pitches on the last full day of campaigning before Election Day. Alexander won the Republican primary against underfunded state Rep. Joe Carr by 9 percentage points in August, a result widely considered much closer than expected for an incumbent with a 40-year political history in the state. Alexander suggested that it was unfair to read too much into those results. “In my political experience, anybody who wins an election by 5 or 6 percentage points has a good win, and if you win by 10 you have a massive win,” he said.
The race between Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democratic challenger Gordon Ball is ending with the candidates reciting their central themes — for Alexander, that a vote for Ball is a vote for President Obama’s agenda, and for Ball, that Alexander hasn’t represented working Tennesseans. Alexander, 74, spent Monday meeting with supporters in Nashville before heading to Knoxville for a University of Tennessee basketball game. Ball, 65, was in Memphis working on get-out-the-vote efforts and visiting a phone bank urging “No” votes on the anti-abortion Amendment 1 on the ballot. “This amendment needs to be defeated,” he said. Alexander told reporters he thinks he has a “good chance” of winning a third Senate term with 51 to 54 percent of the vote, and that Republicans will win control of the Senate.
More than half of those who used HealthCare.gov to sign up for medical insurance last year plan to skip the Web portal this year, reports CNBC. In a study by Bankrate (NYSE: RATE), just 43 percent plan to use HealthCare.gov to shop for health insurance, while 51 percent will not return to the government-run health portal. A number of respondents who said they don’t plan on using the website might allow their current policies to auto-renew, according to the study. Last year’s introduction of the health exchanges was met with a number of errors and technical glitches, resulting in headaches for Americans who attempted to sign up for insurance as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
TVA President Bill Johnson was strolling down Gay Street in Knoxville this fall when he looked down and saw the name of one of his predecessors at TVA — Marvin Runyon — on the brick sidewalk beneath his feet. Johnson, whose style and approach of running America’s biggest public power company has often been compared to Runyon, says he was proud to stand on the foundation laid by Runyon. Johnson, like Runyon, came out of the private sector and wants to bring a leaner, more businesslike approach to the Tennessee Valley Authority. He doesn’t shy away from the comparison to Runyon, the former Nissan and Ford manager who headed TVA from 1988 to 1991. In fact, Johnson was even eager to be photographed standing by Runyon’s name on the sidewalk.
Wilson County Schools’ graduation rates are now among the best in Tennessee based on this year’s recently released State Report Card, which has been an area of focus since 2010. The district had a 96.3 percent graduation rate, well above the state average of 87.2 percent and ahead of other major local systems such as Williamson, Rutherford, Sumner, Robertson, Cheatham and Metro Nashville. Mt. Juliet High School’s graduation rate came in at 97.5 percent with Wilson Central’s at 97.2 percent. Watertown High was 95.7 percent and Lebanon 94 percent. The district hired graduation coaches for each high school to identify and help at-risk students after 2010, when the system’s graduation rate stood at 89 percent.
Across the nation, other states are focusing on who they will vote for on Election Day. In Tennessee this year, candidates are taking a back seat to controversial amendments to the state constitution that have far-reaching importance. If you did not participate in early voting, you still have the chance, on Tuesday, to make your vote count, not only on the amendments but also on the governorship, one of Tennessee’s U.S. Senate seats, all of its U.S. House seats and most state legislative seats. Also many counties and cities will elect mayors, sheriffs, school officials and decide whether to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores. Constitutional amendments Amendments 1, 2, 3 and 4 appear to be very different — women’s health, judicial selection, taxation and charitable lotteries — but what all four have in common is their intent to concentrate new powers in the hands of state lawmakers and, to a lesser extent, the governor.