July 15 TN News Digest

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

Governor delivers 600 000 grant for Rails Trails program (Cookeville Herald-Citizen)

Surrounded by local leaders, bicycle enthusiasts — and one very loud locomotive — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam made a stop in Cookeville yesterday to dole out a $600,000 grant that will help in the construction of the long-awaited Tennessee Central Heritage Rail Trail. Standing under shade at the Cookeville Depot downtown, Haslam presented the check amid smiles and applause.

Downtown rehab on the move (Tullahoma News)

Gifts, no matter what shape or size they come in are usually most welcome, and in Tullahoma’s case, a very nice present from the State of Tennessee was presented personally to the city Thursday from Gov. Bill Haslam. Haslam made a special trip to Tullahoma to deliver a $256,360 symbolic check to go toward a revitalization effort in Tullahoma’s downtown area.

Schools grade higher in TCAP (Times-Gazette)

Bedford County Schools’ system-wide scores in the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test, released last week, showed improvement in reading, math and science, but a very slight decline in social studies. Students in grades 3-8 take the TCAP test each spring…. “Tennessee educators deserve immense credit for their hard work this year in helping our students achieve marked improvements and success,” said Haslam in a news release last week.

Volkswagen Celebrates Third Anniversary in Chattanooga (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)

On Friday Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga Operations will mark the third anniversary of its announcement to build an automobile manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tenn. It was July 15, 2008 when Volkswagen executives and elected officials stood on a scenic bluff overlooking the Tennessee River to announce the selection of Chattanooga as the home of a new $1 billion factory that would build a new midsize sedan built especially to accommodate American tastes.

Haslam Expects Federal Belt-Tightening to Squeeze Tennessee (TN Report)

Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that state and local governments should be prepared for less money coming from Washington as Republicans and Democrats feud over federal debt issues. He reasoned that Tennessee will take a hit regardless of how the matter is resolved.

Haslam staying away from Tennessee AD search (Oak Ridger)

Gov. Bill Haslam was more than happy to talk about sports, even if it was for just a few moments in between the political questions he was asked on Wednesday. “I can talk all day about sports,” the former mayor of Knoxville said.

Haslam refusing some state workers raises (Associated Press)

Gov. Bill Haslam has refused to grant pay raises to hundreds of state workers who have been disciplined in the past year, and he said anything short of good performance doesn’t deserve higher pay. The 1.6 percent increases for about 42,000 executive branch workers took effect July 1.

No Raises for ‘Disciplined’ State Employees (TN Report)

Gov. Bill Haslam shrugged off complaints by the state employees union over his administration’s decision to withhold pay raises from workers who got themselves in trouble on the job during the last year. The state denied raises to an estimated 2 percent of executive branch state employees — or as many as 850 people — this month after high-ranking commissioners agreed that workers who had been written up at least twice, demoted or suspended should not get a 1.6 percent raise written in this year’s state budget, according to the Tennessee Department of Human Resources.

Ramsey defends Haslam’s raise denial to some state workers (City Paper/Woods)

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey is defending the Haslam administration’s decision to deny pay raises to state employees who have been disciplined by their bosses in the past year. “I do agree with the governor on this issue,” Ramsey told reporters Thursday.

Education Department debuts “ReadTennessee” website (Business Clarksville)

The Tennessee Department of Education announced today the launch of ReadTennessee.org, a website that will help teachers, parents, and community members understand new curriculum standards and increased expectations for learning. The online toolkits provide information on promoting early grades reading and accelerating student achievement for young students across the state.

THP finishes 2nd in national competition (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Highway Patrol has finished second in the 2011 National Law Enforcement Challenge. It was based on traffic safety enforcement, officer training, public information and crash reduction.

Port authority working to keep Cates Landing project on schedule (State Gazette)

The Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority held its monthly meeting on Wednesday at the Dyersburg-Dyer County Chamber of Commerce. The timing on the Cates Landing Project continues to be very tight and keeping the project moving on schedule has had its challenges.

State electronic library now has World Book (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Electronic Library is now offering material from World Book encyclopedia. Tennesseans can access all the reference products available from World Book, including a Spanish language edition, through the TEL website.

Affordable loan program helps owners keep homes (Times-Gazette)

Bedford is one of the 29 counties in Tennessee that’s been hardest hit by the recession, but fortunately, forgivable loans are available to those who are struggling to pay their mortgage. According to data compiled by RealtyTrac, one in every 1,358 housing units in Bedford County received a foreclosure filing in May 2011, with the northern part of the county particularly hardest hit.

Program gives laptops (Jackson Sun)

Sixteen young adults from West Tennessee were presented with brand-new laptop computers for their accomplishments Thursday night at a ceremony at Lambuth Memorial United Methodist Church in Jackson. Computers 4 Kids: Connected Tennessee is a program that has partnered with the state Department of Children’s Services — Independent Living Office to provide computers to children and teens in foster care and in the state’s 76 Boys and Girls Clubs.

McCormick creates state gun laws task force (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sher)

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, on Wednesday announced creation of a seven-member Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force to study state gun laws and “identify if any changes may need to be made.” In a news release, McCormick said the task force “will study ways we can protect the Second Amendment rights of Tennesseans and will make recommendations to our majority about good public policy we all can support.”

5 apply for interim Senate post (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Donilia)

Commission to pick temporary successor Five candidates applied for the four-month appointment to Jamie Woodson’s state Senate seat – the wife of a former state senator, the chairman of the South Knoxville Republican Club, the executive director of the Mercy Health and Fitness Center, a longtime legal assistant and a former Brentwood, Tenn., city commissioner. The deadline to apply was Thursday.

County Clerk Arriola put campaign treasurer on payroll (Tennessean/Haas)

Davidson County Clerk John Arriola put his campaign treasurer on the clerk’s payroll with little to no work product to show for receiving $60,000 since 2006, according to a report by WTVF-Channel 5. Arriola in a statement said that he has employed his campaign treasurer, Leighton Bush, since 2006 on a part-time basis as a deputy clerk in charge of outreach.

Wharton wants to use grant to fight gun violence, help local economy (CA/Maki)

Mayor A C Wharton says he’ll use the $4.8 million that he’s getting from the private foundation of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to help reduce handgun violence in Memphis and spur economic development in the inner city. The money will pay for “innovation teams” to focus on reviving blighted or abandoned properties in the city core and to approach the problem of handgun violence as a public health crisis, Wharton said.

Corker Slams Party Leadership on Senate Floor (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

As the debt and deficit talks break down in Washington, Tennessee Republican Bob Corker is calling out what he calls “childish behavior.” Senator Corker says both Republicans and Democrats “only want it their way.”

Corker Slams Impasse on Debt Ceiling (Memphis Flyer)

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) has fairly consistently demonstrated during his five years in Washington thus far that he is not bashful about taking the lead in controversial matters — be they foreign or domestic. An example of the former is his aggressive insistence, early on, that the United States distance itself from involvement with Pakistan and begin to disengage from Afghanistan.

Roe sees no break in debt ceiling stalemate (Times-News)

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe didn’t see a way out of a debt ceiling talks stalemate between President Barack Obama and House GOP leaders on Thursday. “It looked like both sides were painted in a corner.

Local musician performs for senators, Tennesseans (Daily News Journal)

U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and Tennessee visitors to Washington were treated to a special performance by Susanna Johnson of Murfreesboro and Kameron Myers of Franklin at the legislators’ weekly “Tennessee Tuesday” breakfast. Johnson performed on viola while Myers played violin.

Bill in the works to keep hatcheries open (Johnson City Press)

Language contained within a bill awaiting consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives would, if passed, allow the Erwin National Fish Hatchery and other mitigation hatcheries across the country to continue operations for at least another year. The Erwin hatchery and eight other mitigation hatcheries across the country were facing closure in the upcoming federal fiscal year due to funding cuts.

Thousands of jobs in jeopardy without more federal roads funds (TFP/Laslo)

Recently released jobs numbers show thousands of workers in Tennessee and Georgia may have to hang up their tool belts unless Congress can find more money for road construction. If the House-passed budget were signed into law, more than 24,000 construction workers in Tennessee and Georgia would lose their jobs, according the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

State jobs: the long-term view (Stateline)

Last week’s news that the national unemployment rate had ticked up to 9.2 percent came with sobering data on state government employment. States had shed 7,000 jobs in a month, bringing overall state employment to its lowest level since 2006.

TVA’s Bull Run expansion plan leaves Claxton residents uneasy (N-S/Fowler)

Georgia Smith doesn’t mince words when it comes to TVA’s plan to buy property – including her longtime home – for an expanded storage area for coal ash and gypsum. “We think it’s terrible,” she said, seated next to her husband of 57 years.

Tennessee negotiating with Horsehead (Beaver County News)

While state legislators in Nashville have authorized an $8 million incentive for Horsehead Corp. to build its new zinc plant in Tennessee, Potter Township remains a candidate for the firm’s proposed facility. The new facility will eventually replace the existing facility in Potter Township, which employs 600 people.

Work on mammoth Music City Center is 40 percent complete (Tenn./Marsteller)

Like a slow crescendo, the Music City Center is gradually taking shape. The $585 million convention center is about 40 percent complete, with workers continuing to assemble the 1.2 million-square-foot structure’s steel and concrete skeleton.

Goodyear plant to join World Color on selling block (State Gazette)

After the recent shutdown of Union City’s Goodyear facility and last year’s closure of World Color in Dyersburg, some might be wondering what comes next for the properties these manufacturers are leaving behind. Goodyear’s Union City Communications Manager Clint Smith said his company’s intention is to sell the 2.2 million-square-foot building, which totals about 52 acres and sits on a 600-acre site.

Grants to fund school health clinics (Tennessean/Wilemon)

Federal grants totaling $1.3 million will help create new school-based health centers in Davidson and Wilson counties. United Neighborhood Health Services will use $500,000 to establish health clinics at Hunters Lane High School, McGavock High School, Haynes Middle School and Rose Park Middle School.

Sumner schools may alter policies after accusations of rel. practices (TN/Easton)

The Sumner County Board of Education will change some of its policies in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee accusing the district of promoting Christianity. The lawsuit, filed May 3 in U.S. District Court on behalf of nine anonymous students from four families, alleges the district has a widespread, unconstitutional pattern and practice of religious activities in schools.

Rutherford school officials to discuss booster club audit (Gannett)

Riverdale High School Principal Tom Nolan took steps to improve record keeping in the Quarterback Club amid a state audit, a school system spokesman said. But a state comptroller’s report released Wednesday notes several situations in which Nolan failed to monitor or maintain control over the club’s finances and reporting from January 2008 through June 2009.

School board may seek more PILOT money (Times Free-Press/Garrett)

If the Hamilton County school board approves a balanced budget next Thursday — which would mean almost $18 million in cuts — Chairman Mike Evatt wants the County Commission to kick in some more money. He said he plans to ask commissioners — who control the school system’s money — to release special education funds paid to the county.

Memphis City Schools caught in seniority quandary (Commercial Appeal/Roberts)

System losing teacher recruits as experience rules in layoffs Memphis City Schools is balancing on the beam of spending millions of dollars a year to recruit and keep talent while also complying with teacher union seniority rules. In a tough economy — the city schools have laid off 150 teachers in the past month — those objectives collide faster than students on the way to lunch.

Minnesota: Deal Set to End Minnesota Impasse (Wall Street Journal)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers reached a tentative deal Thursday to end the state’s government shutdown after two weeks. The agreement largely mirrors a budget plan Republicans proposed June 30, using deferred payments to schools and the sale of bonds tied to a state tobacco settlement to help close a projected $5 billion shortfall over two years.

OPINION

Editorial: High expectations lead to higher TCAP scores (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam rightly congratulated the state’s public school teachers last week for the long strides made in student achievement as measured by state test scores. Teachers, who have borne the brunt of the blame for Tennessee’s low performance compared to other states, should feel vindicated.

Greg Johnson: Reforms unions opposed have made education better (N-S)

From deep in their perhaps permanent political exile, Tennessee Democrats scored a Pyrrhic political point. Annihilated/obliterated/decimated (pick one or all) by the Republican rout last November, which gave the GOP complete control of Tennessee government, the party of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Al Gore was able to label the pachyderms “teacher haters.”

Bill Ketron: It should be a felony not to report missing child (Tennessean)

Most of us with children have felt the panic of turning around in a store or park and not being able to find your child. Certainly, the younger the child the more unsettling it is, especially as the seconds turn into minutes.

Editorial: ‘Caylee’s Law’ movement grows (Tennessean)

The acquittal in the Casey Anthony trial has resulted in proposed legislation making it a crime to fail to report a missing child within so many hours or days. If convicted of this offense, a parent could go to jail for up to a year and be required to pay a fine.

Guest columnist: Balanced calendar offers students gift of time (Tennessean)

Too often in our current debates, more time is spent stressing our differences and not enough on the areas where we agree. So when I heard Metro Nashville Public Schools was considering a balanced calendar with more school days, I recognized a great idea that I wanted to urge you to support.

Editorial: Get center built in Clarksville (Leaf Chronicle)

Once again, the tantalizing prospect of a conference center in Clarksville has been raised. Let’s hope that this time around, it actually moves from an idea to implementation. Clarksville’s modern history is strewn with the remains of conference center proposals.

Times Editorial: Drought likely to be costly (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Don’t let numbers confuse you. Meteorologists report that the Chattanooga area has received about two inches more rain this year than normal.

Free-Press Editorial: More ‘stimulus’ won’t pep up our economy (Times Free-Press)

All us would love to see some optimistic signs in our sagging economy. What could brighten the outlook for prosperity?

Editorial: Studies measure America’s expanding waistlines (Knox. News-Sentinel)

What a shocker: Potato chips are the main culprit behind the average American’s small but steady yearly weight gain, according to a study at Harvard University. But it’s not so much the chips’ fault as it is our inability to – paraphrasing the slogan of one of the best-known brands – eat just one.