July 13 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of political headlines assembled from Tennessee news organizations by staffers in  Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.

Haslam asks for disaster help for 7 counties (Associated Press)

Gov. Bill Haslam has asked President Barack Obama to declare seven counties federal disaster areas as a result of severe weather June 18-25. The counties are Anderson, Claiborne, Grainger, Henderson, Knox, Loudon and Marion. A presidential declaration would make the counties eligible for various federal assistance programs.

Haslam requests disaster aid for Knox, Anderson, Loudon, 4 other counties (N-S)

Knox, Anderson and Loudon are among seven counties targeted for federal disaster aid under a request Gov. Bill Haslam is making to President Barack Obama. The three, along with Claiborne, Grainger, Henderson and Marion counties, endured severe storms, straight-line winds, flash flooding, flooding, hail and tornadoes June 18-25. If the request for aid is granted, residents would have access to varying levels of federal assistance.

Haslam asks for Marion, 6 other counties, to be declared disaster areas (WRCB-TV)

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has asked President Obama to declare seven counties federal disaster areas. Governor Haslam is asking for Marion, Anderson, Claiborne, Grainger, Henderson, Knox, and Loudon counties to be declared disaster areas following severe storms, straight-line winds, flash flooding, flooding, hail and tornadoes on June 18 through June 25. Should this request for assistance be granted, the counties would have access to varying levels of federal assistance programs.

2010-11 TCAP results released (Business Clarksville)

The Tennessee Department of Education recently released district-level 2010-2011 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Achievement Test results. Now available online, the statewide and district-by-district breakdown shows how each school district performed in advancing student growth in all subject areas and grade levels three through eight.

Putnam students above state peers in reading language (Herald Citizen)

Preliminary Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, TCAP, achievement test results show Putnam County students performing above their peers state-wide in reading and language, while some grade levels came in slightly below state averages in math. “We feel very encouraged that our teachers are stepping up the requirements,” Director of Putnam County Schools Kathleen Airhart said.

Fire up grill for Tennessee Beef Month (Daily News Journal)

Follow tips for gourmet-style meal on a budget Gov. Bill Haslam has declared July to be Tennessee Beef Month. What a great salute to beef cattle fans here in Tennessee and what a perfect excuse to enjoy beef. Summer’s heat calls for grilling and, as one of my friends told me, grilling is the easiest way to be a gourmet.

County seeks help on economic development (Marshall County Tribune)

City, county and state leaders had face time with assistant commissioners and the lieutenant governor recently when they asked that this community be remembered and pitched as a prospective location for business development and new jobs. “We want to stay in front of them,” Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said when explaining the purpose of a recent visit with: Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, speaker of the Senate; Sen. Bill Ketron who represents Marshall County; Paul Sassbender, assistant commissioner of economic and community development; and Iliff McMahan, assistant commissioner of labor and workforce development.

 TN prepares for stricter crib rules at child-care centers (Tennessean/Wilemon)

There are more than 3,500 licensed child-care businesses in Tennessee, and the state is about to launch a crib check at every one of them. The centers must have new cribs with greater safety standards in place by Dec. 28, 2012.

39 disabled residents file suit against Tennessee (Tennessean/Haas)

Group wants to block cuts to in-home help A group of 39 disabled Tennesseans filed suit against the state over cuts to medical assistance they say will force them away from their families and into group care homes. The lawsuit, filed by plaintiffs from Nashville, Madison, Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Mt. Juliet, Goodlettsville and other cities across the state, seeks to block cuts to the state’s in-home nursing and personal assistance services.

Disabled Patients Sue to Keep At-Home Care (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Some 680 people with intellectual disabilities may lose in-home assistance services as part of state budget cuts that took affect July 1st. This week 39 families sued the state’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Warrant issued in state Capitol vandalism case (Associated Press)

State officials have issued a warrant for a woman charged with spray painting graffiti on the state Capitol last month. The Highway Patrol on Tuesday said in a news release that 37-year-old Barbara Ann Smith of Murfreesboro, Tenn., is charged with felony vandalism. She is currently jailed in Murfreesboro on unrelated vandalism charges.

State Filing Charges Against Capitol Graffiti Suspect (TN Report)

Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons announced Tuesday that the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) had issued an arrest warrant for a suspect charged for vandalizing the Tennessee State Capitol Building last month. The THP’s Criminal Investigation Division issued an arrest warrant for Barbara Ann Smith, 37, of Murfreesboro on one count of vandalism over $1,000 (a class D felony). Smith is currently being held in the Rutherford County Detention Center for unrelated vandalism charges filed by the Murfreesboro Police Department.

Authorities charge woman with vandalizing state Capitol (City Paper/Woods)

Vandalism charges were filed Tuesday against a woman suspected of spray-painting graffiti on the walls of the state Capitol. The Tennessee Highway Patrol issued an arrest warrant for Barbara Ann Smith, 37, who is jailed in Rutherford County on charges of vandalizing government property near the Murfreesboro public square.

Murfreesboro woman charged in Capitol vandalism (Tennessean/Sisk)

The Tennessee Highway Patrol has charged a Murfreesboro woman with vandalizing the state Capitol. The THP filed a single count of vandalism Tuesday against Barbara Ann Smith, saying she was responsible for a June 19 incident in which phrases such as “Welcome to the Jungle” and an anarchist symbol were spray-painted on the exterior of the Capitol.

Audit finds fault with state’s drug task forces (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sher)

Crooked drug dealers aren’t the only thorn sticking in the side of Tennessee’s local judicial drug task forces, according to a state comptroller audit. Six of the 24 multijurisdictional task forces — one out of every four — were plagued by problems of their own making such as sloppy record keeping, double billing for meals and missing equipment, state auditors found in a review of special funds operated under the auspices of district attorneys general during fiscal year 2009-10.

Pharmacist pleads guilty to illegal prescription pill distribution (City Paper/Nix)

The pharmacist at the center of a major prescription pill distribution investigation has pleaded guilty to the illegal distribution of those pills as well as falsifying his tax returns. Glenn Brooks, 74, of Brentwood, pleaded guilty in a federal court Monday to eight counts of unlawful distribution of hydrocodone and two counts of filing a false income tax return, according to a statement released by the office of Jerry E. Martin, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee.

State reviews reports on stormwater runoff at UT site (News-Sentinel/Boehnke)

Clean-water group found record pollution levels at Sorority Village Less than a month after a watchdog group reported finding record-high pollution levels in stormwater runoff from the University of Tennessee’s Sorority Village project, the state is reviewing all reports taken from its roughly 15 visits to the construction site. That includes a visit from an inspector following a complaint by the Tennessee Clean Water Network in late June after the group measured levels of mud and sediment higher than previous record levels taken from the same site in July 2010.

Study: Worker shortage expected in a decade (Daily News Journal)

Service workers with degrees to be in biggest demand, speaker says the local 8.6 percent unemployment rate will be replaced in 10 years by a workforce shortage as baby boomers retire, a keynote speaker told business leaders Tuesday. “We will be short on jobs by 24,000 at the end of the decade,” Nancy Eisenbrandt said while speaking before the women’s group Rutherford CABLE during a monthly breakfast meeting for the local organization.

Brownsville officer retires after TBI probe (Jackson Sun)

The investigation of Brownsville Police Lt. Shawn Williams is complete and revealed that he improperly disposed of evidence that he said was more than 10 years old. Williams, 45, has been on paid administrative leave since June 9, he said. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation and Special Agent in Charge John Mehr said the case has been handed over to District Attorney General Garry Brown for his review.

All legislation OK’d by state lawmakers now online (Associated Press)

All the legislation approved this year during the General Assembly is now available online. According to a news release from the Tennessee secretary of state, it’s the first year that all resolutions are available on the website: www.tn.gov/sos/acts/index.htm. The documents include 510 public acts, 32 private acts and 1,071 resolutions. The online documents are scanned versions of the original ones. They will eventually be stored at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Ketron sponsors ‘Caylee Act’ bill (Daily News Journal)

Sets a 24-hour time limit on reporting missing child In the wake of the Casey Anthony acquittal, state Sen. Bill Ketron is backing legislation to make it a felony for failing to report a missing child. Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, said Tuesday he will sponsor the Senate version of legislation dubbed the “Caylee Anthony Act” filed this week by state Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport. The bill is designed to strengthen state law and make it a Class E felony for a parent, legal guardian or caretaker to fail or refuse to make a reasonable effort to notify law enforcement about a missing child within 24 hours.

Immigration Issues Still on State Lawmakers’ Minds (TN Report)

Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly are bragging on their accomplishments in immigration reform — especially about a unique approach to the E-Verify hiring system — but what could be ripe for debate is the list of immigration bills they’re ready to push next year.

Lawmaker to pay for carving initials into desk (Associated Press)

A freshman lawmaker who admits carving her initials into her desk in the state House chamber is going to have to pay to fix it. Speaker Beth Harwell said Tuesday that Rep. Julia Hurley’s initials will be removed at the lawmaker’s expense. Hurley is a Republican from Lenoir City.

Sanderson visits China (State Gazette)

State Rep. Bill Sanderson left for China from Nashville on Saturday morning as one of 14 state representatives on an exchange program paid for by the Chinese government. The trip, which will last for two weeks, is an opportunity for Sanderson and his colleagues to observe a foreign government and foreign business up close. “It’s an opportunity to talk to some of the leaders in China and tour some of the attractions,” said Sanderson. The trip was organized by Rep. Jim Coley out of District 97, which includes part of Shelby County.

Mt. Juliet passes property tax hike to fund enhanced fire service (TN/Anderson)

Mt. Juliet city commissioners passed a 20-cent property tax increase Monday night to pay for enhanced fire protection in the growing southern part of the city, where response times can exceed 15 minutes. Until now, the city has had a property tax rate of zero. The board voted 3-2 to approve the city’s 2011-12 budget, which included the tax. Before the vote, Mayor Ed Hagerty proposed about $1 million in cuts to what had been a $12.7 million budget to pay for fire protection without a tax hike.

Bradley County fire plan won’t increase taxes (Times Free-Press/Higgins)

Bradley County can enhance its full-time fire department without a fire-tax increase, county Mayor D. Gary Davis told commissioners this week. Davis reviewed the plan, which calls for two additional fire stations and 36 more firefighters by the time the county’s fire contract with the city ends in 2013.

Roane tax hikes aid capital fund, executive says (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Fowler)

County officials approve increases for city residents The new Roane County budget and accompanying tax rates approved Monday will set a new course for future capital purchases, Roane County Executive Ron Woody said. “For the first time in decades, funds are not programmed to be borrowed for capital assets, and the debt service fund should be set for years to come,” Woody stated in an email.

Blackburn Rails Against Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee Congressman Marsha Blackburn wants to undo a law requiring light bulbs to become more efficient. The Brentwood Republican is sponsoring a bill to repeal part of an energy law signed by President Bush in 2007.

GOP fails to turn off light bulb standards (Associated Press/Abrams)

Fight is symbol of larger divide in Washington House Republicans on Tuesday failed to stop the enactment of new energy-saving standards for light bulbs they portrayed as yet another example of big government interfering in people’s lives. The GOP bill to overturn the standards set to go into effect next year fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage.

Roe scheduled to testify on repealing Independent Payment Advisory Board (T-N)

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe will testify before a House subcommittee today on repealing an Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) created in the health care reform law to rein in Medicare spending. Roe says he is building bipartisan support for his legislation to eliminate the IPAB, which he claims will cut doctors’ Medicare payments and ration health care to seniors.

 Should parents lose custody of extremly obese children? (AP/Tanner)

Should parents of extremely obese children lose custody for not controlling their kids’ weight? A provocative commentary in one of the nation’s most distinguished medical journals argues yes, and its authors are joining a quiet chorus of advocates who say the government should be allowed to intervene in extreme cases. It has happened a few times in the U.S., and the opinion piece in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association says putting children temporarily in foster care is in some cases more ethical than obesity surgery.

Coming this fall: big tuition hikes (Stateline)

For a telling example of the money troubles facing public colleges and universities, consider Pennsylvania. On June 30, Governor Tom Corbett signed a state budget that slashes funding for higher education by 19 percent, and school officials smiled with relief.

Nashville among leaders in clean job gains (Tennessean/Hirst)

Some environmentally conscious industries in Middle Tennessee are thriving, giving Nashville one of the fastest-growing green economies in the nation, a new report says Nashville ranked 11th among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas for job growth in green industries, according to the nonprofit Brookings Institution. Released today, the report looked at data from 2003 to 2010 and evaluated each state and metropolitan area in the United States on number of clean jobs, annual wages, growth and other factors. With 17,913 green jobs, Nashville placed 28th for number of positions.

Brookings ranks Memphis 46th among cities for ‘clean economy’ jobs (CA/Sells)

While Tennessee isn’t the “greenest” state in the land of the free, it’s one of them. Tennessee’s green economy was the 14th largest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia last year, according to a new Brookings Institute study that says Tennessee and its metros have secured important spots in the emerging green economic sector.

Analyst say Chattanooga ‘has a shot’ at getting Audi plant (Times Free-Press)

Volkswagen subsidiary plans U.S. car production The CEO of German automaker Audi is saying the company has decided to build cars in North America, prompting an automotive analyst to declare that Chattanooga “has a shot” at the new plant.

Nash to put failing schools in cluster to try to avoid state takeover (TN/Hubbard)

Metro hopes consolidation will ‘pull out all the stops’ for turnaround Metro Nashville’s lowest-performing schools will be grouped together in their own cluster, run by their own administrator and inspected often.

46 Memphis City Schools teachers join list of jobless (Commercial Appeal/Callahan)

Layoffs hit those with less than 2 years in district Amanda Barnett is due to have her baby in eight days, a girl she has already named Hailey. The doctors have told her that Hailey will likely face kidney issues, something that may well require surgery.

California: California Counties Talk of Cutting Ties to State (New York Times)

Natives here have long called this area the Inland Empire, a grand title for a stretch of cities about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. Now, a few political leaders are hoping this empire will lead a movement to break off from the State of California. Frustrated by a state government he calls “completely dysfunctional” and “totally unresponsive,” a conservative Republican county supervisor is pushing a proposal for roughly a dozen counties in the eastern and southern parts of the nation’s third-largest state — conspicuously not including the heavily Democratic city of Los Angeles — to form a new state to be called South California.

Georgia: Atlanta School Scandal Sparks House Cleaning (Wall Street Journal)

The interim superintendent of Atlanta’s public schools promised to reform the district and remove teachers and supervisors implicated in one of the nation’s biggest cheating scandals. Erroll Davis Jr. removed the city’s four area superintendents as well as two principals this week, pending further investigation into cheating on standardized tests.

Minnesota: Frustration Bubbles Up in Minnesota (Wall Street Journal)

With No Sign of Progress on Shutdown, Governor Finds Sympathetic Audience —But One That Wants a Compromise Gov. Mark Dayton headed 75 miles northwest of the deadlocked capital Tuesday to talk about special-education funding before a largely sympathetic audience. But frustration over the longest state shutdown in recent U.S. history—12 days so far—was never far from view. Jim Golombecki, who repairs vending machines stocked by legally blind workers as part of a state program, was among the furloughed state workers in the standing-room-only crowd of about 150 at Apollo High School.

New Jersey: NJ education reform cannot wait (Star-Ledger)

If you came upon a foundering boat full of children, would you stop to debate whether you could save all of the children or just some, argue whether it was a parochial or private boat, debate shipbuilding efficiency in the decades ahead, or delay your attempts to save those young lives while waiting for consensus on shore? The current delay of the Opportunity Scholarship Act pending in Trenton is exactly that, a Swiftian argument over the minutiae of a bill designed to save the hopes, dreams and lives of our inner-city children — not after a decade of bureaucratic system tweaking, but now

OPINION

Editorial: Keep open government at forefront (Leaf Chronicle)

The decision by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration to cut the recipient list for a daily roundup of state media reports from around 1,100 people down to just 150 is a curious one.

Editorial: Caylee bill needs careful study before being passed (Daily News Journal)

People across the country are screaming for tougher laws with harsher punishments following the acquittal of Casey Anthony on murder and child neglect charges. Considering it took a month for Anthony to report 2-year-old Caylee was missing and nearly six months before her remains were found in a swamp, the nation’s outcry is understandable.’

Gail Kerr: 2 clerks let greed get in the way of public service (Tennessean)

John Arriola and David Torrence have nobody but themselves to blame. Both men were given the public’s trust to do simple, well-paid jobs.

Editorial: Court clerk called for a foul (Commercial Appeal)

Whether Shelby County General Sessions Court clerk Otis Jackson survives his legal troubles or not, it’s a sad day in Memphis to see this hometown hero’s reputation stained by a criminal indictment. If the allegations against him are true, however, Jackson’s indictment serves as another example of how the intoxicating effects of political power can lead to abuses that are indefensible on any level.

Guest columnist: Lines drawn over Castalian Springs quarry (Tennessean)

The announced intention of Hoover Inc. Crushed Stone to open a rock quarry, crusher, ready-mix concrete plant and hot-mix asphalt operation in Castalian Springs has met a hostile reception from the community and historical organizations. Neighbors to the 350-acre pastoral farmland on Corum Hill Road at State Highway 25 in Sumner County are incensed because Hoover acquired the land by setting up a front company called Western Farm Products LLC so that local people would not suspect that a rock quarry was about to settle among them.

Guest columnist: Hoover will boost local economy, be good neighbor (Tennessean)

The proposed Hoover quarry in Sumner County will bring a number of economic benefits. Often in the midst of the hue and cry of land-use controversies, the important benefits of locally owned businesses and the opportunities they bring are forgotten. The benefits of this business are quite evident.

Editorial: Early Goodyear closing a big economic blow to Northwest Tenn. (J. Sun)

News of the final closing of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Union City came as a shock on Sunday. Earlier this year, the company announced that tire production would end by the end of 2011. For it to end six months earlier than anticipated is disappointing, and it is sure to be a shock to Northwest Tennessee. Goodyear had employed about 1,900 people at its Union City manufacturing plant, and it had been the area’s largest employer for decades.

Times Editorial: Chuck? He’s not talking (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

No one should be surprised that Rep. Chuck Fleischmann wouldn’t speak directly to Chris Carroll, this newspaper’s reporter, on Monday about a possible 2012 re-election campaign. That’s nothing unusual. Fleischmann, it is increasingly evident, refuses to talk to constituents or anyone else. Carroll’s query — prompted by a New York Times story about opposition to Fleischmann next year — was answered, instead, in an email from Jordan Powell, a spokesman for the congressman.

Jim Leonhirth: Local push may spark better diets (Daily News Journal)

As debate continues about appropriate funding for health care and medical services in the United States, few seem to argue against the notions that preventing illness is cheaper than treating illness and that good nutrition is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Specifics about addressing those notions, however, quickly fall victim to political, economic, ideological and even scientific debate.

Editorial: Suffering in the Parched South (New York Times)

Right now, the official drought map of the United States looks as if it has been set on fire and scorched at the bottom edge. Scorched is how much of the Southeast and Southwest feel, in the midst of a drought that is the most extreme since the 1950s and possibly since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.