April 29 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.

General Mills to expand its Rutherford County operations (Associated Press)
Global food manufacturer General Mills is investing $250 million to expand its current operations in Rutherford County. Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd announced this week that the move will increase capacity at the company’s Murfreesboro facility, creating nearly 120 new jobs. The expansion will involve increasing production on existing lines, as well as installation of additional production equipment. General Mills is one of the world’s leading food companies, operating in more than 100 countries around the world.

General Mills announces $253M Rutherford expansion (Nashville Post)
General Mills announced today a $253 million expansion to its Murfreesboro facility in a move the company says will add 117 jobs in Rutherford County. The plant, which opened in 1988 and employs about 900 people, produces Yoplait yogurt and Big G’s toaster strudel line. The expansion will add other product lines to the facility. General Mills is going through two different restructuring plans — Project Catalyst and Project Century. The former resulted in the loss of 800 jobs company-wide in the first quarter of this year and the latter is an ongoing effort of plant closures, mergers and expansions that will be concluded in 2018.

General Mills investing $250 million in Tennessee, creating new jobs (TFP/Pare)
General Mills will expand current operations in a Murfreesboro, Tenn, facility, investing $250 million and creating 117 new jobs, officials said today. The expansion will involve increasing production on existing lines, as well as installation of additional production equipment. The company makes Yoplait yogurt at the plant. “We want to thank General Mills for choosing to expand in Tennessee and for creating these new jobs in Murfreesboro and Rutherford County,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a statement. General Mills is one of the world’s biggest food companies, operating in more than 100 countries around the world with brands including Yoplait, Cheerios, Fiber One, Hagen-Dazs, Nature Valley, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, and Green Giant.

General Mills investing $250M, creating 117 jobs in Rutherford (Daily News Journal)
General Mills will add two product lines and 117 jobs to its Murfreesboro plant, the Minneapolis-based company announced Tuesday morning. The expansion represents a $253 million investment in the Murfreesboro facility, which produces Yoplait yogurt and every General Mills Toaster Strudel baked in the nation, plant manager David Tincher said. “The environment being built here is really special. That’s what makes it possible for us to build here and flourish here,” Tincher said at the announcement. The expansion will involve increasing production on existing lines, as well as the installation of additional production equipment.

More than 31,000 students still eligible for TN Promise (Tennessean/Tamburin)
More than half of the original pool of Tennessee Promise applicants are still eligible for the scholarship program, according to data released this week by Gov. Bill Haslam’s office. About 31,500 students have met the Promise requirements, attending two mandatory meetings and filing for federal aid, according to preliminary data that includes students from 84 of the state’s 95 counties. More than 58,000 high school seniors initially applied for the last-dollar scholarship that covers tuition at Tennessee’s community and technical colleges. But officials expect most of them will end up leaving the program to pursue four-year degrees or other options.

Haslam: Repeated sessions on Insure Tennessee won’t work (Tenn/Boucher)
Bringing lawmakers back to Nashville to again debate Insure Tennessee would accomplish something, Gov. Bill Haslam believes. But it wouldn’t have the impact supporters of the controversial health care plan want. “We could keep calling special session after special session like they suggested. But I think the only impact would be frayed nerves and hot tempers,” Haslam, R-Knoxville, told reporters Tuesday. The governor is referencing a letter from House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, in which the Democrat says he would call a special legislative session “again and again” until lawmakers pass Insure Tennessee if he were governor.

Haslam says he’ll sign cannabis oil bill (Tennessean/Boucher)
Gov. Bill Haslam will sign into law a measure that allows limited usage of cannabis oil for medical reasons in Tennessee. The governor had said several times he wasn’t opposed to the bill, but confirmed Tuesday he could sign the bill as soon as the end of this week. “We do plan to sign that. Our legal gets it, they review it and then it comes to me. I actually have not gotten it yet, but I think we will in the next day or so,” Haslam told reporters Tuesday in Nashville. Eligible people would be able to legally use cannabis oil in Tennessee as soon as Haslam signs the law.

Students take TCAPs this week (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
Many East Tennessee school systems, including Knox County, are taking the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program — commonly known as TCAPs — this week. The annual state-mandated test is used to help measure how much a student grows academically over the course of a school year for students in third through eighth grades. High school students will be taking End of Course exams. Students are tested on reading/language arts, math, science and social studies. A state law requires TCAP scores be included as a percentage of the second semester grade for students in 3 through 8. In Knox County, that percentage is 15 percent of a student’s grade.

State launches Memphis music video (Commercial Appeal/Risher)
Knoxville-based indie rockers The Black Cadillacs were booked to serenade passengers on a Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to Memphis Tuesday to launch a new state-sponsored digital promotion of Memphis as a music destination. The interactive video, “Last Song to Memphis,” went live earlier Tuesday at the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development website at tnvacation.com/last-song-memphis. Cousins Will Horton and Matthew Hyrka started the band in Memphis with childhood friend Philip Anderson and brought in other musicians while attending college.

TBI report breaks down statewide crime (Tennessean/Buie)
Domestic violence made up 51 percent of all crimes against people in Tennessee, and 50.1 percent of all drug/narcotic offenses in the state occurred on a highway, road or alleyway. These are just a couple of the details made available annually when the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation releases the state’s most comprehensive, data-driven crime report available. The 2014 Crime in Tennessee Report was released Monday and is compiled from the incident reports turned in from all the law enforcement agencies in the state.

Guns in parks law sparks debate in Murfreesboro (Daily News Journal)
Folks enjoying the city’s Kids Castle playground and nearby greenway offered split views about a new state law allowing gun permit holder to carry firearms in all public parks. “I don’t believe guns should be allowed in schools or parks or anywhere where there are children,” Brenda Clark said while stopping for an interview from her walk on the greenway with her adult daughter Amy Couch and 7-week-old grand-daughter Lorelai in a stroller pushed by her mother. The family was near the Overall Street Trailhead with an entrance sign to explain greenway rules that included a message saying that firearms were prohibited along with skateboards, drugs and alcohol, horses and motorized vehicles.

Corker Says He’s Reached Major Goal For His Iran Plan (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker says he’s reached an important milestone for his proposal to handle Iran and its nuclear program: Enough senators have signed on that not even President Barack Obama can block it. The Tennessee Republican has not opposed Obama’s efforts to strike a deal with Iran. But as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has pushed for Congress to have a role in negotiations. Obama has threatened to veto any meddling from Congress, but now Corker says he has 67 co-sponsors — the magic number needed to ensure that veto wouldn’t stick in the Senate. Backers range from long-time Republican allies like fellow Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander to Democrats, such as Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

States Find Savings Through Medicaid Expansion (Stateline)
Medicaid expansion has given a budget boost to participating states, mostly by allowing them to use federal money instead of state dollars to care for pregnant women, inmates, and people with mental illness, disabilities, HIV/AIDS, and breast and cervical cancer, according to two new reports. States that levy assessments and fees on health care providers, which have collected higher revenues as a result of expansion, have reaped extra benefits. Under the Affordable Care Act, states can choose to expand Medicaid, the joint state-federal health program for the poor, to adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,242 for an individual).

TVA president tours Boone Dam (Bristol Herald-Courier)
TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson said people should expect an announcement sometime this summer about a permanent fix for Boone Dam. Johnson toured the dam site Tuesday as his agency continues to assess potential repairs for the dam just west of Tri-Cities Regional Airport. Last October, TVA discovered a sinkhole that was repaired the same month. However they continue to report sediment seepage in the earthen part of the dam. TVA officials announced in February that water levels will be 30 feet lower than normal summer levels for at least a year while repairs are made.

TVA President, CEO: Plan for Boone Fix May Be Determined By Mid Summer (T-N)
TVA officials have tentatively identified the general area likely to be the spot that needs the most attention to stop seepage from an earthen section of Boone Dam into the river downstream, TVA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson said during a tour of the dam on Tuesday. Johnson said he hopes to announce a permanent fix by late July. He would not speculate on how long such a fix might take to complete — or how much longer the lake will remain below even normal winter levels.

TVA leader: Boone Dam is top priority (Johnson City Press)
Tennessee Valley Authority CEO Bill Johnson said the agency should have a plan to permanently repair the leaking Boone Dam by the end of July. On a tour of the dam with journalists and other TVA officials Tuesday afternoon, Johnson said TVA engineers know more now about the seepage problem underneath the earthen part of the dam than they did six months ago, when a sinkhole was discovered on the downstream side, but more information is needed. “We’re still testing what the solution may be,” he said. “The data’s still incomplete. We’re still in the discovery phase.”

Hamilton Co. prepares to spend $4 million for new math textbooks (TFP/Omarzu)
The Hamilton County Department of Education is poised to spend just over $4 million for new math textbooks, or about $93 for each of its roughly 43,000 students. Because textbooks typically have a six-year life, that breaks down to about $15.50 per student per year. School district officials expect to dip into the district’s $34 million fund balance, or savings account, to buy the books. Cost wasn’t one of the factors considered by a committee that has met since January to select the list of kindergarten through 12th-grade math books. The school board will vote on them at its May 21 meeting.
OPINION

Free-Press Editorial: Insurance law finally may be enforced (Times Free-Press)
The Tennessee General Assembly was forced to pass a bill last week to enforce a law. Something’s wrong with that picture, but read on. Even before last week, automobile insurance was required for every driver in the state. But, according to a 2014 study by the Insurance Research Council cited by legislative staff, about one-fifth of drivers in the state don’t have it. Chances are, you’ve probably been hit by one of them — and you or your insurance company had to pay for repairs to your car. Now the fix is in, a fix that would put in place a system in which insurance would be verified with annual tag renewal, and some people don’t like it. The bill, assuming it gets Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature, would become law on July 1.