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Tennessee Favored In No Child Left Behind Announcement

Gov. Bill Haslam got the first real sign that Tennessee will get what it wants on the No Child Left Behind law when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called him last Friday about attending an event in Washington.

The event, it turns out, was a White House ceremony Friday where Haslam introduced President Barack Obama, who announced changes on NCLB. Tennessee requested a waiver from the law in July.

Deciding whether to accept an invitation to the White House would normally be a no-brainer for a governor, but Haslam had a little scheduling conflict. His daughter, Annie, is getting married. The wedding was planned for Saturday in the front yard of the Tennessee Residence — with the governor himself performing the ceremony.

“I said, ‘I’ve got a little issue. I’ve got a wedding going on that week, and I’ve got to make sure my boss says it’s OK,'” Haslam said Friday in Nashville. He didn’t say exactly who the boss was he was referring to, although presumably it is First Lady Crissy Haslam. The rehearsal dinner was scheduled Friday night.

“Once I knew I could do it logistically, I said I would be glad to, because I think they’re doing the right thing,” Haslam said of the trip.

The governor wasn’t allowing many details about the wedding, but he was happy Friday to talk about his visit to Washington, the return from which delayed him from his appointment to speak in Nashville at the Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development. A luncheon crowd of hundreds of people waited for him in the ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel.

Haslam, who usually keeps a full but tight schedule, apologized repeatedly for being late when he finally got to the podium. Weather had delayed his return. He didn’t speak long. But the journey to Washington spoke volumes about Tennessee’s place in education reform in the Obama administration’s eyes.

Obama announced a new flexibility plan on NCLB for states engaged in education reform. The criteria to receive that flexibility fall in line with the reform effort going on in Tennessee, begun under former Gov. Phil Bredesen. Duncan gave high praise to Tennessee’s efforts when he appeared in Nashville in August at West End Middle School and at the offices of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education.

Obama is seeking reforms that still include standards that will make students college-ready and career-ready, accountability in the education system and evaluating teachers and principals on their effectiveness. But the White House move appears to be an agreement that expectations in NCLB have proved to be simply impossible to reach.

So on Friday morning, Haslam stood in the East Room of the White House, thanking Duncan, saying while he doesn’t always agree with Obama there should be action when Republicans and Democrats do agree, and introducing the president. No one guaranteed Haslam would get what he wants on NCLB, but the sight of the East Room appeared to say he would.

“When they said, ‘Do you want to come?’ I said, ‘Well, please don’t ask us up there if you’re going to embarrass us down the road,'” Haslam said. “I think the message was: ‘We like the path that you’re on.'”

States across the country have complained about the standards required in the law as being unrealistic and not achievable. The Obama administration seems to agree. Tennessee has been involved in education reform that won $501 million in the first round of the federal Race to the Top competition, showing the Obama administration likes what the state is doing.

The Obama administration issued criteria Friday that will give states that are working on reform the flexibility they seek. The White House noted that many states have adopted college- and career-ready standards and are implementing reforms in teacher and principal evaluations.

Obama said Friday a fresh approach will give states the opportunity to improve but will not serve as a reprieve from the spirit of the No Child Left Behind Law, which was adopted under former President George W. Bush.

Haslam said in his remarks at the White House that Tennessee is most qualified to make its own decisions about how to make progress in education. Tennessee’s efforts and the federal government’s position seem to match.

“We have talked with Secretary Duncan several times over the last five or six days,” Haslam said in Nashville Friday. “We talked about what their criteria are and where Tennessee stacks up.

“I think they feel really good about what we’ve submitted to them and what we’re doing in Tennessee, so I don’t have any final word, but I feel good about our position.”

Haslam was asked if the federal step to give more authority to the states is a weakening of standards.

“Here’s why it’s not weakening the standards,” he said. “No Child Left Behind, while it was about raising standards, it let every state set their own. Until last year, Tennessee set the standard really low. Then it just measured by whether you met your own bar. Tennessee did the right thing and set the bar higher.

“Now all of a sudden we’re on a path (with the original NCLB expectations) where 100 percent of our schools weren’t going to meet the standards. It’s much better to measure improvement.”

Haslam used one of his frequent analogies by comparing the situation to a workout exercise.

“If somebody said, ‘Bill Haslam, you should get in better shape, and I want you to run a four-minute mile next week,’ no way,” he said. “I can get in better shape, but if the goal is to run a four-minute mile, it’s not going to happen. If they measure my improvement, I can do that.

“We basically are going to use the accountability standards that are set out in Race to the Top in our winning application there. It’s one of the reasons we feel good about our application for a waiver. They’re asking states to do the same thing they asked in Race to the Top.”

Haslam viewed the invitation to the White House as acknowledgement of what the state is doing, but he spoke openly of the obvious political consideration in choosing a Republican governor to join the Democratic president in the ceremony.

“The things they are asking us to do, we are doing, in terms of focusing on the achievement gap, in terms of linking student performance to teacher evaluation,” Haslam said. “All the key things that the president talked about are the things we are doing in Tennessee, and I think are the right things to do as well. That’s one of the reasons I decided to go do that.

“I think they do want some states that they can give waivers to, and hopefully quickly, and say this is a state that’s on the right path. Obviously, politically, it doesn’t hurt to have a Republican governor up there with him, just to be truthful about it.”

Obama thanked Duncan, then thanked Haslam for being at the announcement and for “the great work that he’s doing in Tennessee.

“I’m especially appreciative because I found out that his daughter is getting married, and he is doing the ceremony tomorrow, so we’ve got to get him back on time.”

Amazon Debate Centers on Details of State Incentives

A clash over Internet sales tax collections regarding Amazon.com Tuesday became yet another arena of questions over what sort of deal former Gov. Phil Bredesen struck with the online sales giant.

Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, has proposed legislation that would force businesses such as Amazon, which is dramatically increasing its presence in the state, to collect sales taxes on consumer purchases in Tennessee. Amazon opposes such legislation, questioning the constitutionality of such a law.

But discussion over McNally’s proposal led lawmakers to ask yet again what exactly was done in the Bredesen deal that landed Amazon distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties.

Action was deferred on the legislation, as was the companion bill in the House, until next week, but there appears to be no waning of curiosity among lawmakers about the Amazon agreement — including whether the deal is even in writing.

“There are a number of questions that I have — the committee has — certainly the issue of transparency, the issue of fairness, the potential of economic impact from jobs, versus fairness to existing businesses that are here and collecting sales tax on behalf of the state,” McNally, chairman of the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee, told reporters.

McNally said his intention is to clarify state law on sales tax requirements on businesses that have a presence in the state — an element of the issue that has become open to debate.

One side of the issue argues that letting big distribution companies like Amazon slide on sales tax collections is unfair to the bricks-and-mortar retail businesses that are increasingly failing to compete with the Internet presence of Amazon and businesses like it.

Advocates for Amazon say the sales are being conducted in the home state of Washington, that the presence in Tennessee is only for distribution of the product and that there is no real retail presence of Amazon in the state.

Amazon has reportedly said if the legislation is passed in Tennessee it will take its books and go elsewhere, where the business climate is friendlier. Further, Amazon has reportedly increased the stakes, saying it has also prepared to build distribution centers in Knoxville and Nashville.

The emergence of Amazon in Tennessee has become a significant issue because its presence would bring more than 1,000 jobs to its East Tennessee centers and potentially as many more in new locations in Nashville or Knoxville.

Tennessee has actively recruited businesses that have the potential to create jobs. Gov. Bill Haslam has said he wants to honor commitments to large companies that were made by the previous administration.

But legislators continue to be frustrated by the lack of knowledge of precisely what those commitments were.

Even if the governor and lawmakers back the previous deal, Amazon’s flirtation with new distribution centers ups the ante on whether to force the company to collect sales taxes on its transactions.

Haslam has said that ultimately the Internet sales tax issue would require a multi-state solution because no single state could remedy the problem on its own.

The discussion in the Finance committee Tuesday appeared to show Republicans and Democrats of like mind. Both parties understand the importance of sales tax collections in state revenue.

“It’s an issue that of course involves jobs, but it’s an issue that involves fiscal policy in the state,” McNally said. “This is not a tax issue, it’s really a tax collection issue.”

Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville, said during the meeting, “It almost seems like somebody’s playing games with us, because you know our tax base is based on our sales tax, and that’s pretty important to us.

“It doesn’t seem fair.”

Braden Cox, director of state public policy for Amazon, told legislators the sites planned for Tennessee are “fulfillment centers” for the orders that go through Amazon.

“Fulfillment centers. This has become a new term of art,” said Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, the Senate majority leader.

“I’m trying to look at this from your point of view,” Norris said. “But I’m having the same difficulty Senator Haynes has.”

When Haynes referred to Amazon sites as “stores,” a lobbyist for Amazon corrected him by saying they are “warehouses,” not stores, and noted that a consumer can buy boots from L.L.Bean without paying sales taxes.

Much of the discussion centered on the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution, from Article 1, Section 8, that authorizes Congress to regulate commerce between several states. The issue also involves the due process clause from the 14th Amendment.

The due process clause says no state shall deprive any person of “life, liberty or property without due process of law.” The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the due process clause prohibits a state from taxing a company unless there is “minimal connection” between the company and the state.

A key case study involved Quill Corp., a mail order company incorporated in Delaware, that made catalog sales. The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that there was sufficient presence, known as “nexus,” of Quill in the state and that Quill had to collect the state’s sales tax. But the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the state court, saying the case did not represent sufficient nexus as it related to the commerce clause.

Norris said there is risk in affording one company like Amazon a tax break that is, in turn, disadvantageous to other businesses in the state and could interfere with their interstate commerce.

But in the end, some of the biggest questions among lawmakers remained on deals in the Bredesen administration.

McNally asked Cox directly what the agreement was and if it was in writing. Cox referred to statutory economic incentives available to any company and that there had been “commitments made” regarding sales tax collections. He said they were made in a “business context.” He said he couldn’t speak to the legal nature specific to the state.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has been out front seeking answers to exactly what deals were made under the previous administration, at one point calling for a meeting with Matt Kisber, who was commissioner of Economic and Community Development under Bredesen.

McNally picked up that ball on Tuesday.

“I think it’s important for the people of Tennessee to know what the deal was, what we ended up giving away in order to get the jobs in the centers,” McNally told reporters.

Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, echoed concern about tax breaks.

“I think we’ve got to be very cautious on giving all of these tax breaks to companies because ultimately the taxpayers in Tennessee end up paying for it,” Beavers said Tuesday.

“I’m not sure how many jobs we’re talking about, and that would have an impact on some things I think. We just keep giving company after company tax breaks. How long can we afford to do that?”

Andrea Zelinski contributed to this story.

Amazon.com Considers Opening Tennessee Shipping Centers

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Nov. 29, 2010:

Negotiations Underway for Fulfillment Centers in Chattanooga and Bradley Co., TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber today confirmed the state of Tennessee is in discussions with Seattle, Washington-based Amazon.com, Inc about locating two fulfillment centers in Tennessee, one at the Enterprise South Industrial Park in Chattanooga and the other along State Route 308 in Bradley County, Tennessee. If negotiations are successful, the two projects would represent a combined investment of more than $164 million dollars to create more than two million square feet of distribution space and up to 1,400 new jobs over a period of years.

We are working diligently with Amazon.com officials to work through outstanding issues on this project, said Governor Bredesen. It is my hope that we can bring these discussions to a successful resolution and create a large number of jobs for the people of Tennessee.

There has been lots of speculation in the media in recent weeks about who we might be working with on this project, said Commissioner Kisber. Because of the need to move forward at the local level on PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of tax) agreements in multiple communities, we felt it was important at this time for policy makers at the state and local level to know who were in discussions with.

Commissioner Kisber has been leading a team which includes Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, Gary Farlow, president and CEO, Chamber of Commerce of Cleveland and Bradley County and Trevor Hamilton, vice president, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce in discussions with Amazon.com, Inc. All parties have pointed out a number of procedural steps must be completed involving the state, the county commissions and the local city councils before the project is a go.

This is not a done deal, Mayor Littlefield said. In addition to the PILOT agreements, there are a number of other issues to work through at the state and local level, but we have high hopes of firming up Amazons investment in the next few weeks.

Amazon would make a great addition to our local economy, said Mayor Ramsey. This is a complex project. We couldn’t have gotten this far without Hamilton County, Bradley County, the city of Chattanooga and the respective chambers from both communities working together to make this much progress in a short period of time. Well keep working together to make sure the opportunity becomes a reality for our citizens.

Even though this is not yet a done deal, Bradley County is taking the necessary steps to finalize its local commitment to the company, said Gary Davis, mayor, Bradley County. I am very pleased the county commission decided in workshop session to place the proposed PILOT agreement, industrial access authorization and the FastTrack grant authorization on the consent agenda for next Mondays meeting. To my knowledge, this is the first PILOT agreement ever placed on the consent portion of the agenda and it clearly reflects the level of cooperation, understanding, and trust we have all worked hard to establish between the Administration, the Bradley County Commission, and the Industrial Development Board.

Amazons presence will mean important opportunities for good jobs, said Ross Tarver, chairman, Bradley/Cleveland Industrial Board. A project this far-reaching has many components and takes time to finalize. We could not have gotten to this point without a dedicated and focused regional team working together and our city, county, chamber and state are to be commended.

The Amazon project has come together very rapidly over the past couple of months, said Trevor Hamilton, vice president, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. The company has a very ambitious construction timeline, so reaching resolution on the remaining issues is very important if were to be successful in winning this project.

Bredesen: TN Execution Methods ‘Humane & Sensible’

Gov. Phil Bredesen said he stands by Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol despite the Tennessee Supreme Court delaying four executions while lower courts determine the constitutionality of an extra step recently added to the procedure.

He says he respects the high court’s decision to allow trial courts 90 days to test whether a new step added during the lethal injection is constitutionally sound, but believes the state is already operating within all confines of the law.

“I’m confident that what we’re doing is humane and sensible and in the main stream, it is certainly what a great many other states do, and that in the end we’ll find that what we’re doing is consistent with the Constitution and the law and that Tennessee will be able to go ahead,” said the governor after a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony on Capitol Hill.

The 90-day delay is the latest legal twist in the execution of Stephen Michael West, a man convicted of torturing, raping and killing a woman and her teenage daughter in 1986.

Monday’s ruling was the latest twist in a recent string of legal battles over the constitutionality of the lethal injection execution practices the state uses. Critics of the method argue that individuals may still be partly conscious after the drugs designed to paralyze breathing and stop the heart are administered, thus causing the inmate undue suffering prior to dying.

Two Writs of Election Issued for Vacant Legislature Seats

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Nov. 23, 2010:

Writs of Election Issued for State Senate District 18 and House District 98

NASHVILLE – Governor Bredesen today announced that he has issued two Writs of Election to fill the vacancies in the Office of State Senator for District 18 and the Office of State Representative for District 98. The vacancies were created by the resignation of Senator Diane Black of Sumner County and the death of Representative Ulysses Jones, Jr. of Shelby County.

The Writs direct the Sumner and Robertson County Election Commissions to hold Democratic and Republican primary elections to fill the vacancy in the Office of State Senator, District 18 on Thursday, January 20, 2011, and also direct the Shelby County Election Commission to hold Democratic and Republican primary elections to fill the vacancy in the Office of State Representative, District 98 on the same day. The general election for both vacancies will be held on Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

The Writs of Election are issued in accordance with Article II, Section 15, of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee and Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 2-14-202.

Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Signs Unveiled Along I-24

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Nov 18, 2010

Signs Lead to Birthplace Museum of Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet and Vanderbilt Graduate

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen joined Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear in Clarksville today to recognize one of the nation’s most notable poets and authors and unveil new brown highway signs for the Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum in Guthrie, Kentucky. Warren, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and author and the first Poet Laureate of the United States, was born just over the Tennessee border in Guthrie but grew up with a foot firmly in each state. His early education came at the Guthrie School in Kentucky, but he attended Clarksville High School and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

“Robert Penn Warren was at heart a teacher who recognized the importance of sharing his knowledge with future generations,” said Governor Bredesen. “Mr. Warren spent much of his life teaching poetry, writing influential literature textbooks and working to revolutionize the way literature was taught through the New Criticism method. I am pleased to join Governor Beshear to honor this literary giant and hope this effort will encourage more people to learn about Robert Penn Warren’s contributions to American literature.”

The new signs, reading “Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum,” are located on Interstate 24 at Exit 4 at the U.S. 79 interchange about eight miles southwest of Guthrie, where Warren was born in 1905. “Brown signs tell a traveler, ‘Here is something to be experienced,’” Gov. Beshear said. “In this case, we are encouraging new generations of Americans to experience and learn about one of the great literary figures of our time. These new signs are greatly appreciated by the city of Guthrie, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and I am grateful to Governor Bredesen for his leadership on this issue.”The brown signs complement green highway signs already placed in both states on routes leading to Guthrie.

“We are pleased to have worked with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet on this effort to install directional signs in both states for the Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum in Kentucky,” said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “Warren left a lasting impression on American culture and literature and I certainly hope more people visit the museum to learn about his life and work.”

Warren entered Vanderbilt University in 1921 at age 16 and was involved with two influential poetry groups – the Fugitives and the Agrarians. He graduated from Vanderbilt in 1925 and later returned to teach literature at the University. Today, Vanderbilt is home to the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities.

“Vanderbilt University is pleased to note this further commemoration of the life and legacy of one of its most accomplished graduates,” said Mona Frederick, executive director of Vanderbilt’s Robert Penn Warren Center. “Robert Penn Warren is a key representative of the rich literary legacy of Vanderbilt University’s English department, a scholarly and creative legacy that lives on throughout the humanities at Vanderbilt today.”

Warren is the only person to have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for both poetry and fiction. The

first of his three Pulitzers was for his novel All the King’s Men in 1947. Pulitzer Prizes for poetry

followed in 1958 and 1979. During a career that spanned six decades, Warren produced 16 volumes ofpoetry, 10 novels, and a collection of short stories and published or co-authored a number of literary textbooks on poetry and fiction. He received numerous other awards, honorary degrees and commendations, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award. He was appointed America’s first official Poet Laureate in 1986.

The Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. For more information about the home, contact Jeane Moore at 270-483-2683.

Opie Named New State Commissioner of Ed

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Oct. 12, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen today named Bruce Opie commissioner of the Department of Education. Opie replaces former commissioner Tim Webb who announced his resignation last week.

“Bruce has spent 34 years in the field of public education, including nine years as a classroom teacher,” said Bredesen. “His experience, dedication, and the leadership he has shown in various roles with the Tennessee Department of Education will provide the continuity that’s so critical now with our First to the Top focus on improving student performance.”

“This is a great honor, and I appreciate this opportunity to serve Governor Bredesen and the state of Tennessee in this new capacity,” said Opie. “I look forward to continuing to work with the employees of the Department of Education to achieve our public education improvement goals and will do everything I can to help assure a smooth transition as a new administration begins in January.”

Opie began his career in public education as a classroom teacher in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System where he was awarded the DAR Tennessee History Teacher of the Year Award.

He joined the Tennessee Department of Education in 1985 and has served as the department’s executive director for curriculum and instruction, director for the state’s special schools, assistant commissioner for legislation and policy and as deputy commissioner.

Opie helped develop the department’s Exemplary Educator Program and has worked to develop and implement special projects for the Tennessee Holocaust Commission, Homecoming ’86, the Tennessee Bicentennial, the Tennessee Collaborative: Project EQ. He also coordinated the finance research study funded by the Gates Foundation and conducted by the University of Washington’s Human Services Policy Center.

He formerly served as an adjunct faculty member for Nashville State Community College and has served on various boards including the Appalachia Educational Laboratory, DOE Board of Examiners, TSSAA and the Tennessee Geographic Alliance. He holds a bachelor of science with a double major in history and political science and a master’s degree in education administration, both from Austin Peay State University.

General Mills Expanding Murfreesboro Plant

State of Tennessee Press Release, Sept. 29, 2010:

Governor Bredesen, Commissioner Kisber, Locals Applaud Move to Create 80 New Jobs

NASHVILLE — Governor Phil Bredesen and Commissioner Matt Kisber, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development today joined with Rutherford County elected and chamber officials in congratulating General Mills, Inc of Minneapolis, Minn. for the company’s decision to invest $100 million in the expansion of the company’s production facility in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Company officials say the plant, which manufactures products for General Mills’ Yoplait brand, will add approximately 80 jobs.

“I’m very pleased to have one of the world’s most respected food companies growing and thriving in Tennessee,” said Governor Bredesen. “This expansion is not just an endorsement of Tennessee’s business climate, but in the quality and productivity of the workforce in Murfreesboro.”

“We’ve worked hard to make Tennessee’s business climate one of the best in the U.S.,” said Commissioner Kisber. “When the sixth largest food company in the world chooses Tennessee to grow their business, it means our state is an integral part of a global brand.”

General Mills product brands are well known to consumers around the world and in addition to Yoplait, includes Pillsbury, Green Giant, Cheerios and Betty Crocker. The company has more than 30,000 employees worldwide and its products are marketed to more than 100 countries on six continents around the world.

“General Mills has been a wonderful corporate citizen of our community for many, many years,” said Murfreesboro Mayor Tommy Bragg. “The addition of 80 new jobs to our community will be a strong addition to the local economy.”

“Rutherford County is fortunate that we’ve had such strong partnerships which worked together to make this project a reality,” said Norman Brown, chairman, Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce. “The state of Tennessee, the city of Murfreesboro, Destination Rutherford, TVA and Murfreesboro Electric each brought important skills to the table and helped make this an easy decision for General Mills.”

“TVA was pleased to be a part of the team that helped put this project together,” said John Bradley, senior vice president of economic development. “Our strong working relationship with local distributors like Murfreesboro Electric demonstrates the importance of working together to create and retain jobs for our customers in the Tennessee Valley.”

The Yoplait line of products is a $1.5 billion business for General Mills and is America’s leading yogurt brand. Products include Yoplait Original yogurt, Yoplait Light and Go-Gurt yogurt for kids. In addition to being a long time corporate citizen of Rutherford County, the General Mills facility in Murfreesboro has also participated with General Mills plants around the world in innovating new safety measures to reduce the stresses and strains which accompany employee lifting and an employee-led sustainability program in Murfreesboro resulted in energy, water and waste cost savings of more than $86,000 for the company in 2009.

About General Mills

One of the world’s leading food companies, General Mills operates in more than 100 countries and markets more than 100 consumer brands, including Cheerios, Häagen-Dazs, Nature Valley, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso, Progresso, Yoplait, Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, and more. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, General Mills had fiscal 2010 global net sales of US$16 billion, including the company’s $1.2 billion proportionate share of joint venture net sales.

Trost Named New Revenue Dept. Head

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, Sept. 20, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen today named Charles A. Trost commissioner of the Department of Revenue. Trost replaces former commissioner Reagan Farr who left the administration September 1 to return to the private sector.

“Charlie Trost is widely recognized for his work and expertise in the areas of state and federal tax law and tax litigation and he also brings to this role extensive experience working with industries and companies moving to or relocating in Tennessee,” said Bredesen. “I appreciate his willingness to step in at this time to provide continued leadership to the Department of Revenue and ensure our efforts to create new jobs and attract capital investment to Tennessee are uninterrupted.”

“I am certainly honored to have the opportunity to serve Governor Bredesen and the state of Tennessee in this important role,” said Trost. “Beyond its responsibilities of collecting taxes and enforcing revenue laws fairly and impartially, the Department of Revenue is a critical partner in attracting jobs and investment to Tennessee, and I look forward to working with the employees of the Department of Revenue to fulfill these responsibilities.”

Tennessee has been applauded for the collaboration between its Departments of Revenue and Economic and Community Development to recruit jobs to the state. Since January 2003, Tennessee has attracted more than 190,000 new jobs and attracted $33 billion in new capital, consistently placing among the top five states in the U.S. for business climate.

Trost was previously of counsel with Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP in Nashville. He has been recognized for more than 10 years for his work in the area of state tax law in The Best Lawyers in America, as well as Business Tennessee’s list of the “Top 101 Lawyers in Tennessee.”

He received his Juris Doctor from the University of Alabama, his Master of Law in Taxation from New York University and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University. He is a member of the Uniform Law Commission and a Fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel.

Trost is a Trustee of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and a member of the Board of Directors of The Land Trust for Tennessee.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue is responsible for administration of state tax laws and motor vehicle title and registration laws established by the General Assembly and for collection of taxes and fees associated with those laws. The department collects approximately 92 percent of total state tax revenue. It is also responsible for apportioning revenue collections for distribution to various state funds and local units of government. The magnitude of collections by the department makes possible a lower cost of collection per tax dollar than local communities could achieve.

Bredesen Announces $18.5 Million in Transportation Grants

State of Tennessee Press Release, Aug 25, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen joined Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely today to announce the award of $18,536,915 in transportation enhancement grants to 34 communities and the Department of Tourist Development to fund projects across the state.

For a list of grant recipients, detailed information and releases for each grant please visit:

http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/news/2010/grants.htm

“The Enhancement Grant Program provides an opportunity for the state to work with local agencies to fund projects that enrich Tennessee communities in a variety of ways,” said Bredesen. “Many will use these funds to build new sidewalks and bike trails that support healthier lifestyles, while others utilize the program to save historic structures for future generations. All of these are worthwhile projects that truly enhance the quality of life in local communities.”

Transportation enhancement grants are made possible through a federally-funded program administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

“Through Transportation Enhancement grants, TDOT has funded approximately $223 million in non-traditional transportation projects,” said Nicely. “Established by Congress in the early 1990’s, the program supports activities designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects of the nation’s transportation system.”

A variety of activities such as the restoration of historic facilities, bike and pedestrian trails, landscaping and other non-traditional transportation projects are eligible for grant funds under the federal program. In order to qualify for transportation enhancement funds, a project must relate to surface transportation and qualify as one of the 12 eligible activities. The project must also be accessible to the public.