This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Study: Insure Tennessee could bring $1.14B to state (Associated Press)
A University of Tennessee economic study commissioned by advocates for Medicaid expansion says Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee could create 15,000 jobs and bring $1.14 billion in new spending to the state. According to the study released Monday by UT’s Center for Business and Economic Research, an estimated 200,000 of the 470,000 eligible Tennesseans would participate in Haslam’s proposed version of Medicaid expansion. The $1.14 billion figure comes from an estimated $5,705 in medical spending by each of those 200,000 people. The study was commissioned by the Coalition for a Healthy Tennessee, a nonprofit that supports expanding insurance for those who cannot afford it.
UT report: Insure Tennessee will add $1B+ to state revenues (Nashville Post)
A report released Monday by the University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research says that Insure Tennessee, the state’s potential Medicaid expansion plan, could add more than $1 billion in health care revenues to the state. The figures are based on a 2012 Kaiser Family Foundation report that found TennCare expenditures averaged about $5,700 a year per beneficiary. “If 200,000 potentially eligible Tennesseans would choose to acquire insurance,” the report said, “this means about $1.14 billion in new spending in the state.” The report also found that Insure Tennessee, which would expand Medicaid eligibility to adults earning less than 138 percent of the poverty level, would create 15,000 full-time equivalent jobs through the influx of new revenue, as well as $909 million in new income for residents.
UT study says governor’s plan generates about $1 billion impact (CA/Locker)
A new University of Tennessee study says that approval of Gov. Bill Haslam’s alternative Medicaid expansion plan would channel about $1.03 billion in new annual federal funding into the state, create about 15,000 new full-time jobs and generate about $909 million in new payroll income. The study was paid for by the Coalition for a Healthy Tennessee, mostly comprised of large businesses and health care providers advocating legislative approval next month of the governor’s plan, Insure Tennessee, a more market-oriented alternative to traditional Medicaid expansion provided for under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Study offers new look at Haslam’s Insure TN program (WSMV-TV Nashville)
A study claims Gov. Bill Haslam’s new Insure Tennessee plan could bring millions of dollars in income to Tennessee residents. Last month, Haslam proposed Insure Tennessee, a pilot program that provides healthcare coverage to people who lack insurance or affordable options. Some details about the plan remain murky, but a new study provided new details on who might benefit – and who might qualify. “We weren’t trying to find good or bad, just trying to describe a group of people,” said Dr. William Fox, a professor at the University of Tennessee and the director of the Center for Business & Economic Research. That group consists of the 200,000 people who could potentially sign up for insurance under the program. Fox described the group as people who typically work and don’t rely on traditional welfare.
New Study Shows Huge Benefit In Expanding State’s Medicaid (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Expanding Medicaid in Tennessee could create thousands of jobs and generate more than a billion dollars in new spending. That’s the finding of a new study by the University of Tennessee. Governor Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan could create 15,000 jobs and reach 200,000 eligible Tennesseans. The study found if each of those 200,000 people spend $5,700 on medical goods and services it would generate just over $1 billion in spending.
Study: Haslam’s ‘Insure Tennessee’ plan could benefit economy (WBIR-TV Knox)
A recent study found that Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed Insure Tennessee plan could bring more than 15,000 jobs and $1.14 billion in new spending to the state. The study, which was done by the University of Tennessee’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said nearly half of eligible Tennesseans would participate in the two-year pilot program. The purpose of the program is to provide health insurance to thousands. “Insure Tennessee is a way to expand insurance coverage in the state of Tennessee to those people who are not currently eligible under Medicaid and don’t have access to the insurance exchange,” said Anthony Spezia, Covenant Health CEO.
Insure Tennessee targets workers without insurance (Tennessean/Fletcher)
People who would qualify for insurance under “Insure Tennessee” are eligible to work or are employed but are unable to afford health care, according to a study by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. The report estimates that 470,000 Tennesseans would qualify for Insure Tennessee, with about 200,000 who would opt to participate in the program’s two-year pilot. Those who qualify for Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan make more money than those who are eligible for TennCare, which assists the poorest residents, said Bill Fox, director of CBER.
County Commission Endorses Haslam Medicaid Expansion (Memphis Daily News)
Shelby County Commissioners, including some vocal Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act in general, are calling on the Tennessee legislature to approve Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee Medicaid expansion plan. The commission approved the resolution Monday, Jan. 12 by commissioner Terry Roland 12-0. Commissioner Heidi Shafer recused herself from voting because of her job as chief marketing officer of the Flinn Clinic, whose patients include TennCare recipients. TennCare is Tennessee’s version of Medicaid. Roland said the resolution was a tough political call for him to make as a Republican.
Haslam Wants to Offer Some Tennesseans Vouchers For Health Insurance (WPLN)
It’s likely to be a heated political fight next month, when Governor Haslam takes his plan to expand Medicaid to the General Assembly. Lawmakers — like many other people — have serious questions about the complicated proposal to cover 200,000 uninsured Tennesseans. Let’s unpack the governor’s two-pronged plan, starting with his voucher idea.
Haslam names panel to recommend judicial candidates (Associated Press)
Gov. Bill Haslam has named the members of an 11-person council to recommend candidates to fill judicial vacancies in Tennessee. Fellow Republicans in the Legislature had allowed a previous version of the panel to expire before voters in November ratified a constitutional amendment to keep in place the state’s current judicial selection system in which the governor fills vacancies on appeals courts and justices and judges then stand for yes-no retention votes. Haslam created the new judicial nominating council through an executive order.
Haslam announces members of council for Judicial Appointments (C. Online)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today announced the 11 members of the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments that will recommend candidates to the governor to fill vacancies for Tennessee trial and appellate courts The council was established by executive order following the November 4th passage of a constitutional amendment creating a method for selecting judges of the Supreme Court or any intermediate appellate court in Tennessee. Members of the council include three each from the western, middle and eastern divisions of the state. Two members are at-large. “This council will ensure that we continue to have a strong, independent and impartial judicial system in our state,” Haslam said.
Haslam names council for judicial appointments (Memphis Business Journal)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced the 11 members of the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments on Monday. The council was created by executive order after the Nov. 4 passage of a constitutional amendment that established a method for judge selection for the Supreme Court and any intermediate appellate court in Tennessee. The council will recommend candidates to Haslam for vacancies in Tennessee’s trial and appellate courts. Three members from the western, middle and eastern divisions of the state plus two members at-large form the Council. Members from the western division include: Lang Wiseman of Wiseman Bray PLLC (Memphis), George Brown of Resolute Systems LLC (Memphis) and Bradford Box of Rainey Kizer Reviere & Bell PLC, (Jackson). The two members at-large are Randy Noel of Butler Snow LLP (Memphis) and David A. Golden of Eastman Chemical Company (Kingsport).
Chattanooga attorney named to judicial panel (Times Free-Press/Anderson)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday announced the 11 members of the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments, and he named Rosemarie Hill of Chattanooga to the list. Hill is a shareholder at Chambliss Bahner & Stophel P.C., and is chairwoman of the firm’s Labor and Employment division. “I didn’t expect this appointment at all,” Hill said. “I am delighted and honored.” The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments is responsible for recommending three candidates to the governor to fill vacancies for Tennessee trial and appellate courts. “What I really think my responsibility is, is to assure that the very best and most qualified people get in front of the governor, so he can make the right choice for judges,” Hill said.
Where Obama’s Free Community-College Plan Fails, TN’s May Succeed (Governing)
While many education leaders have praised President Obama’s proposal to offer free community-college tuition, the response from state-level officials — who would have to sign on — has been less enthusiastic. But the plan also spotlights a Tennessee program that stands a good chance of catching on in other states. Few specifics have been released, but the new proposed state-federal program would cover tuition for students enrolled at least half-time who maintain a 2.5 GPA and make “steady progress toward completing their program.” The federal government would cover three-quarters of the average cost of tuition in the state, with states picking up the rest and agreeing to reforms such as reducing remedial education and distributing a “significant portion” of funding on performance, not enrollment alone.
Union raises funding questions for community college plan (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
President Barack Obama wants to promise two free years of community college tuition to millions of Americans, but area faculty members say that promise should include a raise for campus workers. At the state level, Gov. Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise plan cuts tuition costs for tens of thousands of students. But United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 3865, Tennessee’s public higher education union, questions how community colleges can handle the influx of students in the fall, without extra funding from the state. In a press release issued last week, the group said: “Sweeping public policy initiatives require a strong commitment to public financing. Governor Haslam’s higher education initiatives have included zero funding other than to offset student costs.”
Tennessee tax collections $124 million more than expected (Tennessean/Boucher)
Thanks to nearly 6.5 percent growth in sales tax collections, Tennessee has collected almost $125 million more than what it expected to receive at this point in the year. Five months through the fiscal year, the state has collected $124 million more in taxes than it anticipated, according to a report from the Department of Finance & Administration released Friday. That surplus is thanks in large part to the nearly $100 million extra in sales tax the state didn’t estimate receiving at this point, the report states. Just in December, sales tax collections exceeded estimates by $21.4 million.
TennCare drops Northrop Grumman (Nashville Post)
The Bureau of TennCare has dropped Northrop Grumman as the developer of the state’s uncompleted Medicaid eligibility system. The Virginia-based aerospace and technology firm won the state’s $35 million bid in 2012 to develop an updated computer system that would determine Medicaid eligibility based on new Affordable Care Act requirements. The system was supposed to be operational by Jan. 1, 2014, but remains uncompleted. The delays have caused persistent issues for the agency, which faced a federal lawsuit this summer over noncompliance with application processing deadlines. TennCare hired consulting firm and Big Four auditor KPMG in December to help decide whether to select a new vendor
TennCare fires Northrop Grumman (Tennessean/Wilemon)
TennCare will end its contract with Northrop Grumman and hire a new vendor to build a new computer system for determining Medicaid eligibility. The agency announced Monday it was taking the action because of months of delays and missed benchmarks by Northrop Grumman. The decision was based on an audit report by KPMG. The behind-schedule $35.7 million computer system was a primary factor that led to a federal lawsuit. People whose Medicaid applications got lost are the plaintiffs in a class-action suit that has been filed against the directors of three state agencies: TennCare, the Department of Finance and Administration and the Department of Human Services.
State officials decide to cut ties with TennCare computer vendor (TFP/Sher)
It’s back to the drawing board for TennCare officials on a new Medicaid eligibility determination system after the state and contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. agreed to part ways over a troubled $37.5 million system that shows few signs of ever working. In a statement issued Monday, the TennCare Bureau said that after receiving a detailed report on problems from its consultant, KPMG LLC, “the state and current vendor have mutually decided it to be in their respective best interests to terminate the current contract early.” “The state will be moving forward with the process to select a new vendor,” the statement adds. TennCare officials on Monday gave no timetable on selecting another contractor or when it will eventually have a system that was supposed to begin interacting last January with the federal government’s system under the Affordable Care Act.
TennCare delays releasing public records (Tennessean/Wilemon)
The Tennessean has set a Tuesday deadline for TennCare to comply with a public records request after continued delays. The news organization is considering asking a judge to force the state agency to turn over the requested records, which are related to difficulties state residents have had applying for Medicaid coverage. The Tennessean made its original request on July 17 for emails, then narrowed the search times with a revised request on Sept. 19. After TennCare quoted a $4,139.56 estimated cost to provide copies of emails and other documents, The Tennessean issued a check for that amount on Nov. 13. TennCare has yet to turn over the documents or give the news organization a date when they will be available.
State Agrees to Close Developmental Center (Associated Press)
State officials have agreed to close a large facility in East Tennessee that houses mentally disabled people, but local officials say they will argue to keep it open. The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities has submitted a plan to shut down Greene Valley Developmental Center by next June and move its nearly 100 residents into more home-like settings. According to media, the move would end a lawsuit filed against the state in 1995 over its care of mentally disabled people. Tennessee Disability Coalition assistant director Donna DeStefano said the organization has pushed for more than two decades for people with intellectual disabilities to be moved into more community-like settings.
State levies pollution fine against developers of apartment complex (CA/Charlier)
Developers of an Arlington apartment complex featuring resort-style amenities face more than $123,000 in proposed fines and damages assessed by state environmental regulators for allegedly polluting water at the construction site. A group comprising Hall Creek Partners, Pro Site Construction and L3 Properties must pay a civil penalty of $49,920 plus $71,520 in damages and $1,628 to cover investigative costs, according to an order signed this month by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Robert Martineau. The order can be appealed to an administrative law judge. The assessment follows inspections by TDEC that found numerous alleged violations of the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act at the site near Airline and Milton Wilson roads where Hall Creeks Apartments are being built.
Norris Dam State Park survey underway (WVLT-TV Knoxville)
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is asking visitors to complete a brief survey about Norris Dam State Park’s current condition. The survey will collect information on amenities, recreation activities, and services visitors consider when deciding which park to visit. TDEC is looking for Tennessee park visitors to complete the survey. The survey opens January 12 and closes January 30. Click the link in the “Related Links” feature box to visit the survey.
TDOC Employee Loses Job After Deadly Wrong Way Crash (WTVF-TV Nashville)
The driver accused in a wrong way crash that killed one person on Interstate 65 has been fired from her job with the Tennessee Department of Corrections. Investigators with the Metro Nashville Police Department said 38-year-old Delois Beasley was driving the wrong way in her Cadillac Escalade when she hit a Corvette driven by a Kentucky man head on. The crash happened in the northbound lanes at mile marker 91 near Madison. Brownsville, Kentucky resident Michael Campbell, age 41, was killed in the crash. His passenger, 32-year-old Terry Anderson, was transported to Skyline Medical Center with critical injuries.
ORNL partnering with UT on new wave of cheaper, lighter cars (WATE-TV Knoxville)
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is partnering with the University of Tennessee to create a new wave of cars that are expected to be cheaper and lighter. It’s part of the president’s newly announced plan for an innovation manufacturing hub in East Tennessee. One of the projects researchers are working on could change the future of driving. “Fiber reinforced automobiles, composites, is the future,” said Tom Rogers, director of industrial partnerships at ORNL. Those composites are manufactured right here in East Tennessee. President Obama last week announced plans for the new innovation manufacturing hub during a visit to the plastics and fiber plant Techmer PM in Clinton.
New institute looks to promote carbon fiber use (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has teamed up with the University of Tennessee on a unique project designated by President Obama. The Institute for Advanced Composite Manufacturing Innovation, known as IACMI, will research using carbon fiber composite materials in automobiles. ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility creates the materials needed. “In three or four years cars are going to be made less of steel and more of aluminum and composites,” said ORNL director of industrial partnership Tom Rogers. “They will be lighter, they will be much more fuel efficient. But the best thing is they will have a stamp that says made in Tennessee on it,” said Rogers.
National manufacturing institution headquartered in East Tennessee (WVLT-TV)
East Tennessee is about to become a leader in manufacturing, all thanks to a new hub centered around UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The announcement was made Friday by President Barack Obama. One invention, low cost carbon fibers, could change the way people travel and it’s already being made at ORNL’s plant in Oak Ridge. The fibers are weaved there, sent off to be compounded and then made into materials to make things like cars. The Institute for Advance Composites Manufacturing Innovation or IACMI is led by UT and will invest more than 250 million dollars to launch it. 70 million of those dollars are federal funds, the rest are from companies who feel the project is worth it.
TSU adopts four-day class schedule (Nashville Post)
Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover announced today a move to a four-day class schedule, thus becoming the first university in the Tennessee Board of Regents system to do so. The move begins officially when school resumes for the spring 2015 semester, TSU said in a release. The first day of classes for the semester is Tuesday, Jan. 20. Specifically, classes will be held Monday-Thursday with administrative offices and staff to continue with a five-day workweek. Glover (pictured) said the change is intended to allow more time for student advising and faculty office hours, as well as free up more time for faculty and students to engage in research and grant writing.
Hardin Co. woman charged with TennCare fraud second time (Jackson Sun)
The Office of Inspector General today announced the arrest of 41-year old Teri Lynn Snodgrass of Crump. She’s charged in a Hardin County indictment with fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance by visiting multiple physicians in a short period of time in an effort to obtain prescriptions for the painkiller Hydrocodone, using TennCare as payment. Snodgrass pleaded guilty in July of last year to two counts of doctor shopping, after she was indicted two months earlier in Hardeman County. She served 30 days in jail and was sentenced to four years of probation along with paying court costs.
The four big issues businesses should watch in the 109th General Assembly (NBJ)
It’s that time of year again. State lawmakers will get back together Tuesday for the start of a new session of the Tennessee General Assembly. We won’t see any changes to leadership. House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey both were easily re-nominated by their GOP caucuses in December. And keep in mind: Given the results in November’s elections, those caucuses are getting bigger. Republicans still hold dominant supermajorities in the Senate and the House, with the Democrats now holding 5 of the 33 seats in the Senate. For businesses, a few key issues are bound to surface in the chambers of the Capitol and hallways of Legislative Plaza.
Knox County’s freshman legislators ready to start (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Witt)
Sen. Richard Briggs officially begins work this week, and he’s already advocating for the Medicaid expansion plan Gov. Bill Haslam has proposed. “I do kind of like the plan,” Briggs said. Briggs, a surgeon, said something must be done to cover the uninsured. Because of the cost of their care, it affects people with insurance who end up paying more through their premiums. “This affects everybody,” he said, “it’s not just getting insurance for the people who can’t afford high premiums.” The former Knox County commissioner left his seat in November after being elected to represent the state’s 7th Senate District, first ousting Republican incumbent Sen. Stacey Campfield and then Democrat challenger Cheri Siler.
New State Bill Would Tighten Abortion Laws In Tennessee (WPTY-TV Memphis)
Tennesee lawmakers could soon consider a bill that would tighten up current abortion laws in the Volunteer State. It’s called Senate Bill 13 and it is sponsored by republican state senator Mae Beavers. The bill would bring back consent requirements that were overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2000. Supports said it is informed consent about a medical procedure, but critics said it is designed to make women feel guilty about having an abortion. It was a little more than two months ago when pro-life and pro-choice supporters battled for your vote over Amendment One. It passed in Tennessee, giving state legislators the power to pass more restrictive abortion laws. The bill would require informed consent before a woman can have an abortion. Doctors would have to tell a woman that abortion is a major surgical procedure.
Tennessee students missing out on millions (Memphis Business Journal)
Tennessee’s high school seniors are failing to capitalize on millions of dollars in free college funding each year. A new study by NerdScholar, a division of NerdWallet, found that 22 percent of students statewide who were eligible for Pell grants did not fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. By neglecting to apply for federal aid, Tennessee students forfeited $51 million in the 2013-2014 school year. Mississippi students left $34.5 million on the table, according to the study. Arkansas students missed out on $25.9 million by not filling out a FAFSA. Mid-South students were not alone — more than $2.9 billion in grants were not accessed by students across the country.
Audit may lead to $1.3 million windfall (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Witt)
Knox County could receive more than $1.3 million in court fees from an account Criminal Court Clerk Mike Hammond recently discovered. The account is closed but holds more than $2.6 million, according to Hammond. The fund for more than 50 years held partially paid court fees. Once a person pays what they owe in full, money in the account would be turned over to the county and state, Hammond said. The problem, said Hammond, is he’s unsure how much of the $2.6 million should be turned over, and to which entity. “This is an undistributed fund account,” he said. “Over the years it’s grown to $2.6 million. My feeling is that it needs to be distributed.”
As gas prices fall, higher federal gas tax proposed (WREG-TV Memphis)
With gas prices at their lowest in years, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is proposing a gas tax hike. The current federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon and has not been raised since 1993. Senator Corker has proposed a 12 cent per gallon hike spread over two years. Revenue from the tax funds interstate projects, some of which have been delayed, as less money has come in as vehicles become more efficient. There are projections the Highway Trust Fund will be short $160 billion over the next ten years. States often add their own tax on top of the federal gas tax. Tennessee adds 21.4 cents to each gallon of gas, which is the 13th lowest state gas tax in the country.
Bill would reimburse Tennessee for keeping Smokies open (News-Sentinel/Collins)
U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona have reintroduced legislation to reimburse Tennessee and five other states for using their own money to keep national parks open during the federal government shutdown of 2013. The bill, filed Monday, would give back to the states some $2 million in state and local funds they used to keep open the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other national parks during the 16-day government shutdown. Tennessee’s share of the funding would be $60,000. “The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s greatest treasures, which was forced to be shut down during its prime tourist season, a time when the park welcomes most visitors and the surrounding businesses make most of their money,” Alexander said.
How Medicaid for Children Recoups Much of Its Cost in the Long Run (NY Times)
When advocates talk about the advantages of government health care, they often talk about a moral obligation to ensure equal access. Or they describe the immediate health and economic rewards of giving people a way to pay for their care. Now a novel study presents another argument for the medical safety net, at least for children: Giving them health coverage may boost their future earnings for decades. And the taxes they pay on those higher incomes may help pay the government back for some of its investment. The study used newly available tax records measured over decades to examine the effects of providing Medicaid insurance to children.
White House Still Backs Annual Testing in Schools (New York Times)
With debates about the appropriate role for the federal government in public education increasingly polarized, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, insisted on Monday that the administration would not back away from annual testing for students and performance evaluations of teachers based in part on the results of the tests. In a speech on Monday to outline the administration’s priorities for a revision of No Child Left Behind, the signature Bush-era education law, Mr. Duncan said that “parents, teachers and students have both the right and the absolute need to know how much progress all students are making each year towards college- and career-readiness.” Annual testing has become a point of contention in the often-bitter discussions about how best to improve public education.
States Gear Up to Help Medicaid Enrollees Beat Addictions (Stateline)
Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of low-income adults last year became eligible for Medicaid and subsidized health insurance for the first time. Now states face a huge challenge: how to deal with an onslaught of able-bodied, 18- to 64-year olds who haven’t seen a doctor in years. “It took a lot of time and effort to enroll everyone, particularly those who were new to the system,” said Matt Salo, director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “The next big step, and the biggest unknown, is finding out exactly how this newly insured population will use the health care system.”
Oil States’ Budgets Face Crude Awakening (Wall Street Journal)
Energy-producing U.S. states are paring budget forecasts and planning spending cuts amid a plunge in prices that is testing their reliance on revenue from the oil patch. From Texas to North Dakota, states that benefited from a surge in domestic oil production in recent years are now bracing for reduced collections of extraction levies known as severance taxes and royalties as prices fall and companies cut back on drilling. In turn, income- and sales-tax growth could slow as producers cut jobs. While most energy-rich states have amassed ample rainy-day funds in anticipation of the oil industry’s historic booms and busts, the falling prices have budget writers scrambling to adjust earlier fiscal projections that had assumed much higher crude-oil prices.
TVA, local power companies unveil new ‘eScore’ home energy program (WVLT-TV)
The Tennessee Valley Authority is joining local power companies to offer electric customers a new tool to evaluate home energy efficiency. The program, called eScore, allows homeowners to work through home improvements designed to save electricity and money over time. The program offers rebates on eligible upgrades installed by TVA contractors. TVA says the key to the program is it allows customers to work through it at their own pace.Financing will be offered in many cases. “We designed eScore to be beneficial to anyone who owns a home because it lets you know exactly what you need to do to make your home more energy efficient,” said Cindy Herron, vice president for TVA’s EnergyRight Solutions.
TVA rejects News Sentinel’s FOIA request (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Fowler)
It’s secret, and it’s going to stay that way. That’s the bottom line in TVA’s rejection of the News Sentinel’s appeal of a Freedom of Information Act request for information TVA has repeatedly denied. If the newspaper wants to continue its quest to learn the TVA incentives given to a Clinton, Tenn. industry in expansion mode, it will have to go to court. TVA’s decision is final, wrote Janet J. Brewer, vice president of communications. The News Sentinel’s last option is to seek “judicial review,” according to her Jan. 8 letter. At issue is what types of lures TVA dangled before a South Korean company — SL Tennessee — in exchange for its announcement last summer that it was building an $81 million addition to its auto-parts manufacturing complex that officials said will create 1,000 new jobs.
Chattanooga plays prominent role in VW’s $5 billion push in N. America (TFP/Pare)
Volkswagen is ready to invest $5 billion in North America over the next five years, with plans for an array of new vehicles including a refreshed Passat sedan, a midsize sport utility vehicle planned for 2016 and potentially a second SUV, all made in Chattanooga. “The VW brand will return to attack mode,” VW Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn said Monday at the North American International Auto Show. The midsize SUV dubbed the CrossBlue is already targeted for Chattanooga’s plant, where production will start in late 2016. Demand remains strong for midsize SUVs and with the compact SUV market surging, VW is moving aggressively to shore up its entire sport utility segment. The result? “There’s even more in the pipeline,” Winterkorn said.
Volkswagen R&D center ramping up in Chattanooga, official says (TFP/Pare)
Volkswagen’s planned new research, design and planning center for North America is starting to ramp up in Chattanooga, a top VW official said Monday. “It’s very important,” said Michael Horn, Volkswagen Group of America’s chief executive, about the National Research & Development and Planning Center that’s expected to add 200 engineering-type jobs in Chattanooga. The first few people will likely come from Germany, Canada or Mexico, and then the center will build its staff over time, he said at the North American International Auto Show. “No longer will people be sitting in [VW’s German headquarters] in Wolfsburg and product planning” for the North American market,” Horn said.
Volkswagen Unveils Concept Cross Coupe GTE (WDEF-TV Chattanooga)
Volkswagen unveils a brand new S-U-V design at the Detroit Auto show but will this one be built here in Chattanooga? It’s called the Cross Coupe G.T.E. The 5-seater crossover is a smaller version of the Cross Blue S-U-V. The Cross Blue is set to be manufactured at the Chattanooga plant starting next year. Volkswagen officials haven’t indicated where or when this concept Cross Coupe design will be made. A Volkswagen Chattanooga spokesman tells News 12 the plant can handle the design since it is so similar to the Cross Blue. Volkswagen Technical Development Official Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neusser said the Cross Coupe features German engineering while appealing to the American lifestyle.
Paper distributor plans big new center in Antioch (Tennessean/Ward)
Jacksonville, Fla.-based printing paper distributor Mac Papers Inc. has 12.64 acres in The Crossings area of Antioch under contract with plans to construct a 120,653 square foot retail and distribution center. The company’s plans come 21/2 years after it first expanded into Nashville with a facility at another Antioch location that houses management staff plus sales, purchasing and warehouse operations. Car dealer Ben Freeland owns the land on which Mac Papers plans the regional office and distribution center along with a retail component. On Mac Papers’ behalf, civil engineering firm Site Engineering Consultants Inc. of Murfreesboro is seeking to revise the preliminary planned unit development plan for a portion of property at the north corner of Crossings Boulevard and Crossings Circle to allow for that project.
Sumner schools’ open records policy still in question (Tennessean/Lee)
An open records advocate’s lawsuit against the Sumner County Board of Education for denying an email request to inspect and review a public document may move forward, a Sumner County judge ruled on Friday. Ken Jakes filed a lawsuit in Chancery Court on April 9 challenging the board’s policy of requiring a citizen who wishes to inspect a public document to submit that request either in person or via U.S. mail. Jakes is asking the court to issue a judgment that allows someone who makes such requests to the school system to be able to do so via email, facsimile, telephone or “other similar methods.”
Metro addresses problems with school selection process (WSMV-TV Nashville)
Thousands of families entered the Open Schools Selection Process for a chance at only a few hundred spots in the Metro Schools district’s magnet and specialty schools. But school officials suspended the process due to a problem with the system. Many parents were left asking what went wrong, who’s to blame and how Metro students will be affected. Friday afternoon, Metro officials discovered the problem with the school selection process. A total of 539 students were given a spot at multiple schools, 147 schools were unnecessarily waitlisted and 392 were placed lower on the waitlist than they should have been.
Metro School Options site repaired after weekend glitch (WKRN-TV Nashville)
A computer glitch shut down a portion of the Metro Schools website over the weekend, causing a minor disruption with the Metro School Options page. The page, which was back up and running Monday evening, announces the results of a lottery selection that determines where students will attend school in the fall. Metro students are given an option to request admission to a school other than the one in their district. Some students sign up for the lottery so they can attend a magnet or charter school. The problem was discovered late Friday afternoon which gave some students more than one seat in multiple schools.
Arizona: 17 goals in Gov. Ducey’s State of the State (Arizona Republic)
Gov. Doug Ducey’s inaugural State of the State address offered numerous goals for himself, the Legislature and state agencies. Here’s a list of the goals he set in the speech: ■Put the budget in balance. ■Close the state’s office in Washington, D.C. and eliminate the position for a paid lobbyist. ■Institute a state government hiring freeze, with exceptions for areas like public safety and child safety. ■Create a new inspector general position to find fraud and savings in state government and equip him or her with a “badge and subpoena power.” ■Move forward with unrolling state tax reforms already passed by the Legislature and signed into law by former Gov. Jan Brewer. ■Permanently index income tax brackets to inflation. ■Instruct agency directors to review all regulations and send Ducey a list of those that could be eliminated. ■Reduce time frames for permits and licenses. ■Put a small business owner on the Regulatory Review Council. ■Pass a law requiring students to to learn more civics.
Florida: Scott wants to use property taxes to put more money in schools (AP)
Relying on continued growth in property values around the state, Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday proposed increasing the amount of money for the state’s public schools. Scott, who promised during his heated re-election campaign to increase school spending to historic levels, said he wants the average amount spent on each student to rise to $7,176, about $261 higher than was allocated this school year. That would push the average amount to $50 higher than it was in 2007, or before the collapse of the state’s economy resulted in several years of budget cuts, culminating in a $1.3 billion cut during Scott’s first year in office. “These record investments will continue to equip our students for the jobs of tomorrow, and help us on our path to be the number one destination for jobs,” Scott said in a statement.
Idaho: Education, economy, transportation highlights in State of State (Statesman)
Gov. Butch Otter discussed his proposed 2015-16 state budget in his annual address to the Legislature Monday. Keep reading for some highlights from his speech, and a replay of discussions on Twitter while he spoke. SOME HIGHLIGHTS: Overall: Otter’s budget expects 5.5 percent revenue growth. The budget is a 5.2 percent increase from last year. Education: Otter proposes a $101 million increase in education spending over the current fiscal year, a 7.4 percent increase. Where much of the money would go: – Salaries: $31.9 million to raise teacher salaries as part of a five-year plan to increase pay on a career ladder. New teacher salaries would go from $31,750 to $32,800.
Oklahoma: Request to Delay Four Executions Is Denied (New York Times)
A federal appeals court on Monday denied the request by four prisoners in Oklahoma to delay their executions, now scheduled for this winter, rejecting their claim that the drugs to be used are unreliable and could result in unconstitutional pain and suffering. The decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, appeared to clear the way for the execution on Thursday of Charles F. Warren, which would be the state’s first since the botched lethal injection of Clayton D. Lockett in April. Defense lawyers argued that the sedative used in Mr. Lockett’s case and planned for Mr. Warner, midazolam, has unpredictable effects. But the state said it would multiply the dosage, and has refined procedures to ensure that the drug is properly administered.
Editorial: Haslam’s special session Insure TN could be a harbinger (C. Appeal)
Among the reasons we endorsed Bill Haslam when he ran for governor of Tennessee more than four years ago were his experience in governance as Knoxville’s mayor and the hope that he could bring some moderation to a General Assembly dominated by some hard-core GOP conservatives. Overall, the Republican governor’s mayoral experience served him well during his first term. The moderation effect did not quite work out as the GOP-controlled General Assembly, among things, expanded gun-carry rights, stalled Common Core and made it difficult for the state to expand TennCare. Admittedly, Haslam, or any other governor, can only have so much influence when legislative leaders are determined to push a specific agenda.
Guest columnist: Insure Tennessee relies too much on federal promises (Tenn)
The governor has called a special session to present his Insure Tennessee proposal, a plan made possible by the Affordable Care Act along with extensive collaboration with the Obama Administration in Washington, D.C. The legislature must choose whether our state will learn from its past and reject Obamacare or chase the ever-enticing federal dollar. In 1994, Tennessee expanded Medicaid eligibility to include many able-bodied, childless adults – largely the same population Insure Tennessee would cover. After state Medicaid costs tripled, Tennessee was on the brink of financial collapse which led to one governor proposing a state income tax. But in 2005, our state’s fiscal solvency was restored when the TennCare program was reduced by 172,000 enrollees.
Free-Press Editorial: Super majority must wrestle with supercharged issues (TFP)
Grab the arm, adjust the eyepiece and check the objective lenses. This year’s 109th Tennessee General Assembly may come more under the microscope than any in many years. After all, the session, which gets underway today, will deal with — among other things — a controversial health care plan for certain low-income state residents, potential regulations for abortions, education standards for public school students and a potential gas tax. Any of the four alone could have a long-term effect on Tennesseans, who in November elected their most Republican legislature since the 19th century. * Although the General Assembly will be in session this week, the fun won’t begin until Feb. 2, when Gov. Bill Haslam’s special session on his proposed Insure Tennessee plan opens.
Editorial: Wine should go on grocery shelves sooner, not later (Daily News Journal)
When voters in several jurisdictions including Murfreesboro and Smyrna decided in November to approve sale of wine in grocery stores, we wondered how long it would take until wine actually was on the shelves. The state law that allowed voters to decide on such sales stipulated that the sale of wine in grocery stores would not begin until July 2016. State Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, however, is sponsoring a bill in the next session of the General Assembly that would move the start date to July of this year. That session convenes today. Crafting a law that would get it past the state’s liquor lobby apparently required that July 2016 stipulation. The argument at the time was that state liquor stores would need an extended amount of time to adjust to the new market conditions and to other aspects of the law that expanded their sales of products.
Editorial: Investment in institute to take state to new level (News-Sentinel)
The Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Advanced Composites announced by President Barack Obama in Clinton on Friday promises to vault East Tennessee into the nation’s top tier of manufacturing regions. The U.S. Department of Energy, the University of Tennessee and 121 other partners will invest more than $250 million in a public-private partnership that should spur research and attract more high-tech manufacturers to the Knoxville area. DOE will invest $70 million in the institute, while more than $180 million will come from universities, businesses and other partners. The advanced composites institute is the fifth industrial innovation hub created in recent years, and the first since Congress passed a bipartisan measure last month putting legislative punch behind Obama’s modernization initiative.
Editorial: Obama’s Dead-End Community College Plan (Wall Street Journal)
On Thursday President Obama proposed making two years of community college tuition free for responsible students. Two years gets a student closer to an associate’s degree and halfway to a bachelor’s degree, and college completion is the gateway to social mobility. All good things, right? Not quite. Community college is great if it helps you get a bachelor’s degree, but only one in five students attending these institutions goes on to earn the degree within six years according to federal data. In addition, only 21% of first-time, full-time students earn an associate’s degree within three years, and tuition is not the main obstacle to the completion of a degree for low-income students.