This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Governor appoints Loughry to state Arts Commission (Daily News Journal)
Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Andrea J. Loughry to the Tennessee Arts Commission board to represent Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District, which includes Rutherford County, according to a release from the governor’s office. The 15 volunteer members of the Tennessee Arts Commission are selected from among residents who have demonstrated a vital interest in the arts and appointed by the Governor for a five-year term. Each year, the Commission helps fund the arts and cultural activities for more than 600 organizations, schools, local governments, nonprofits and artists in Tennessee. Over the past five years, more than 6,450 grants totaling more than $30 million have been invested in communities across Tennessee, according to the release.
Tennessee Waltz makes for glittering evening (Tennessean/Stout)
Dance cards may have been blank at the beginning of the evening, but they were filled in nicely by the time the National Guard Band struck up for dancing in the hallowed halls of the grand Tennessee state Capitol. The 23rd annual Tennessee Waltz was as glorious as the Capitol itself, and as glittering as the gem that is the Tennessee State Museum. Hosting the elegant black tie evening were Gov. Bill Haslam and his wife, Crissy. Among the special guests in a star-studded list were Lolly and state Sen. Douglas Henry. Douglas Henry has long been an advocate for the museum and the creation of a larger and enhanced facility more in keeping with Tennessee’s rich history.
Landslide blocks westbound lane of U.S. Highway 64 in Polk County, Tenn. (TFP)
A landslide has blocked the westbound lane of U.S. Highway 64 in Polk County, Tenn. Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, said crews are breaking up rocks to clear the slide, which is between Maddens Branch and state Highway 30. Flaggers are directing traffic in the open eastbound lane. She said geotechnical engineers are coming in from Nashville to assess the area to determine when the roadway is safe to reopen to two lanes.
Q&A: Insure Tennessee legislative supporters (Tennessean/Boucher)
When Gov. Bill Haslam wants the General Assembly to pass a law, he must rely on lawmakers to carry the measure for him. On the controversial Insure Tennessee health plan, that responsibility largely fell on the shoulders of Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, and Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville. Overbey sponsored the bill during a special legislative session at the request of the governor. After it died, Yarbro took up the torch during the regular session. Overbey took over lead sponsorship of the measure after it made some progress in the Senate.
Tennessee’s uninsured line up for free help (Tennessean/Wilemon)
Brandon Frazier had no idea his life was in danger when he went to a one-day medical mission for the uninsured. He ended up being wheeled away to an ambulance after a blood test came back that showed he was at immediate risk for a stroke or cardiac arrest. “It’s just a bit weird,” the 34-year-old man from Centerville said as he was strapped onto a gurney. He was among the people who showed up Saturday at the National Guard Armory in Hickman County for the Saint Thomas Health Day of Hope, Health and Healing. It’s not uncommon for people to be wheeled away in gurneys after they’ve delayed doctor visits or gone without medicine waiting for the free day.
Tenn may offer school vouchers, but which schools will take them? (TFP/Omarzu)
Tennessee may offer vouchers averaging $6,628 annually to as many as 5,000 students who attend poorly performing public schools, so students can use the money to go to private school. But with elite private schools in Chattanooga charging as much as $24,000 annually for a day student’s tuition, and most parochial schools charging more than $6,628, how many private schools here will want to accept students with state vouchers? Even state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, who sponsored the school voucher legislation, can’t say. “I don’t know who will take it,” Gardenhire said. “Just because you’re a private school doesn’t mean you have to take it. I haven’t asked any. I just wanted to give them the opportunity.”
Driver’s licenses to be renewed every 8 years (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)
Tennesseans will soon be renewing their driver’s licenses every eight years instead of every five years under one bill given final approval by the Legislature last week while handgun permit holders will be able to a lifetime license without renewal under another. The driver’s license bill (HB198) is projected to save the state $6.4 million annually and the Republican sponsors, Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains and Rep. Tilman Goins of Morristown, say it will substantially reduce waiting times at Department of Safety driver’s license station — easing longstanding complaints from residents. “This may be the best bill this year,” Niceley declared in a brief Senate floor debate.
Rowing association to get new lane on Melton Hill Lake (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
Oak Ridge could see bigger and more prestigious rowing regattas after lawmakers secured $250,000 in state funds to add an eighth rowing lane at Melton Hill Lake, officials said. State Rep. John Ragan spearheaded the effort to get the funding along fellow Oak Ridge Republican state Sen. Randy McNally, according to a news release. According to Ragan, having an eighth lane would enable the Oak Ridge Rowing Association to compete for both bigger regattas as well as international regattas. McNally said the regattas have a huge economic impact because they bring teams, fans and relatives who stay in the county’s hotels and motels, eat at restaurants and shop at stores.
Compromise not a dirty word for Tennessee senators (Tennessean/Troyan)
Sen. Bob Corker was still savoring Tuesday’s 19-0 committee vote for his legislation to review any nuclear deal with Iran when Sen. Lamar Alexander sat down next to him at a meeting two days later and passed him a note. The committee that Alexander chairs had just voted 22-0 to approve his massive rewrite of federal education law, the note said. “I told him we were 41-0,” Alexander said, laughing. Unanimous votes in Congress these days — other than naming a post office — are noteworthy. It’s especially unusual that committee chairmen from the same state would achieve two such votes on major policy issues in a single week.
Alexander, Corker score unusual bipartisan victories (News-Sentinel/Collins)
Score one — no, make that two — points for bipartisanship. It doesn’t happen often, but U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander managed to get two potentially controversial bills passed out of their committees last week with large, bipartisan majorities. In both cases, the votes were unanimous. Defying the White House, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 19-0 on Tuesday to pass a bipartisan bill that would let Congress review — and potentially overturn — any deal President Barack Obama’s administration and other world powers might negotiate with Iran to keep that country from developing nuclear weapons.
School facilities study could become plan costing $100 million (Times-News)
Sullivan County’s school facilities study, set to be accepted by the county school board May 4, and the parallel but separate Kingsport study may morph into a capital plan costing about $100 million total instead of more than $300 million. Or at least that’s the take county Director of Schools Jubal Yennie gave to the county Board of Education during a Thursday evening work session. When Ohio-based consultant Tracy Richter gives an update on the facilities study to the school board 6 p.m. Monday, Yennie said to look for a plan calling for two new high schools with a twist.
Douglas Overbey: Obamacare imperfect, but Insure TN is right for state (Tenn)
“These are the times that try men’s souls.” Certainly, Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal is not quite like forging a new nation, but, like Thomas Paine and our Founding Fathers, we had the opportunity this year to chart a new course in health care for the citizens of Tennessee. Insure Tennessee is a product of two years of concentrated negotiations between Gov. Haslam and the federal government to develop a Tennessee-specific approach to health care and insurance coverage for over 200,000 hard-working Tennesseans caught in a coverage gap. Insure Tennessee would help steady rural hospitals in the state, alleviate their financial strains and even keep some from closing their doors. Equally important, it would allow our state’s military veterans access to the affordable care they deserve.
Editorial: Congratulations, Sen. Corker, on making TIME’s list (Tennessean)
In a television interview on MSNBC Tuesday, Sen. Bob Corker attributed his ability to work across the aisle to the Tennessee values of pragmatism, realism and conservatism. That was just a few hours before the Foreign Relations Committee he chairs voted unanimously to support a bill that would provide Congress oversight on any nuclear deal crafted between the U.S. and Iran. Given this feat and his significant leadership role in the new Republican-dominated U.S. Senate, it’s no surprise that TIME named Corker, R-Chattanooga, to its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world — a combination of political leaders, business magnates, artists and icons. Republican colleague and senior Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Maryville, also known for being pragmatic, realistic and conservative, wrote the article about Corker.
Editorial: Look to the States on Broadband (New York Times)
State and local governments are starting to play an important role in getting broadband Internet access to the American public. And that’s highly commendable considering that many people still do not have access to high-speed connections at affordable prices. Connecticut is working on a program to bring high-capacity fiber-optic lines to homes and businesses in a way that could lower costs and increase competition among Internet providers. New York’s recent budget includes $500 million for programs that make broadband available across the state by the end of 2018. Having access to high-speed connections is important because work, education and entertainment are increasingly moving online.