July 17 TN News Digest

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

Gov. Haslam: Oak Ridge cleanup funding a top concern (Oak Ridger)

State officials are concerned about a possible reduction in cleanup funding for federal sites in Oak Ridge, Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday. The governor is also concerned that Oak Ridge has not been getting an equitable portion of federal cleanup money.

Haslam: Hospital fee still needed (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sher)

For two years running, Tennessee’s hospital industry has bailed out the state’s TennCare program by agreeing to a fee on gross receipts that generates hundreds of millions of dollars. And with no immediate end in sight to the state’s financial woes, Gov. Bill Haslam says he expects next year to seek another extension of the assessment, now set at 4.52 percent.

Haslam defends subbing home care with group homes (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is defending the decision to cut back home care for people with developmental disabilities despite a federal lawsuit seeking to stop the move to group homes. Haslam said after a ribbon-cutting event in at Tims Ford State Park on Thursday that the group homes save money while still delivering personalized services.

Interest grows in ‘virtual’ schools (Commercial Appeal/Roberts)

State aid follows students to online-learning district Denita Alhammadi has taken her son out of the Memphis City Schools and enrolled him in Tennessee Virtual Academy, a new online school that makes home the classroom and puts parents in charge. State tax dollars for her son’s education will now flow 414 miles east of Memphis to Union County Public Schools, the tiny district in East Tennessee acting as fiscal agent for K12 Inc., the largest for-profit purveyor of online education in the nation.

Sudden death of mom raises questions about rehab center (Tennessean/Rau)

For Lindsey Poteet, Sept. 1, 2010, was supposed to be the day she finished a monthlong drug rehabilitation program, giving her a fresh start to care for her 17-month-old daughter, Arwen. Instead she lay brain-dead and on life support in a Nashville hospital bed.

TN OKs aluminum landfill in Mt. Pleasant (Tennessean/Paine)

A state permit was issued Friday to allow a controversial aluminum smelting materials landfill in Mt. Pleasant, 50 miles southwest of Nashville. The permit authorizes an industrial landfill only to take waste from the aluminum recycling processes performed locally by Tennessee Aluminum Processors Inc. and Smelter Service Corp., according to the state.

States cutting home health services for seniors (Associated Press)

Born with cerebral palsy, Jennifer McPhail relies on a home health aide to help her get dressed for work and ready for bed at night. Her motorized wheelchair keeps her active, working as an organizer with a disability rights group in Austin, Texas, and volunteering to help people find housing and to staff hurricane shelters.

TN Senate hearing protesters acquitted (Associated Press/Loller)

Seven protesters who disrupted a state Senate committee hearing in March have been acquitted of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct charges. “We argued they were exercising their First Amendment rights, and we think the First Amendment is really important,” said defense attorney Jay Steed, who represented the group in Davidson County General Sessions Court with partner Jonathan Farmer.

For DUI diehards, rough road ahead (Leaf Chronicle)

Repeat offenders face tougher Tennessee laws, victim voices Ronnie Outlaw was at a low place two years ago when he was charged for the fourth time with driving under the influence. He’d been caught many times speeding or driving with his headlights off. It wasn’t anything new.

Questions about David Torrence’s attendance go as far back as 1994 (TN/Haas)

When asked about not being in the office enough and staying up-to-date on issues going on in the office, David Torrence had an easy answer: He didn’t need to be there; he hired the right people.

Craddock, Gentry vie for county clerk job (Tennessean/Cass)

Resignation, scandal brings coveted opening Two men with long experience in Metro government and political circles are vying to become the next Davidson County Criminal Court clerk. Councilman Michael Craddock, who sought the clerk’s position in 2010 and briefly ran for mayor this year, and former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, who finished third in the mayor’s race four years ago, are competing for the job vacated by David Torrence, who resigned Friday.

Budget fight not over yet; ‘It was a mess’ – Halbert (Commercial Appeal/Wright)

The day after the City Council passed a $661 million budget on June 21, councilman Harold Collins reminded a writer for The Commercial Appeal that he predicted weeks before that he and his peers would have to compromise on a series of measures to come up with a balanced budget. As the minutes ticked away on the last day of the regular scheduled council meeting for the fiscal year that ended June 30, that’s exactly what happened.

Planners revisit Memphis area transportation goals (Commercial Appeal/Charlier)

Although a new Mississippi River bridge remains a priority, the officials drawing up a long-range transportation plan for Greater Memphis are focusing less on new roads and structures than on making existing corridors more efficient and accommodating. Metropolitan Planning Organization officials this summer are working to update the region’s 30-year transportation plan, called “Direction 2040.

Quiet Fleischmann raising money for 2012 campaign (Times Free-Press/Carroll)

Asked to talk about raising six figures for a race that hasn’t even started, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann emailed a statement Friday through his staff, marking the third time in two weeks Tennessee’s 3rd District congressman has declined to talk about fundraising. “We feel good about where we are,” Chip Saltsman, the Republican congressman’s chief of staff, said Saturday.

Cohen pushes legislation to set time limit on bill collections (CA/Sullivan)

As it stands right now, Gwendolyn E. Hall owes Covington Pike Acceptance Co. $5,503 plus attorneys’ fees. Whether she will in the long run is in dispute.

Tennessee faces cuts in welfare program (Gannett/Bewley)

Tennessee’s welfare program is about 10 percent poorer than it used to be, and state officials don’t expect to get that money back anytime soon. Funding for supplemental grants through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program ran out at the end of June, well before the fiscal year ends in October.

An Alarming New Stimulant, Legal in Many States (New York Times)

Dr. Jeffrey J. Narmi could not believe what he was seeing this spring in the emergency room at Schuylkill Medical Center in Pottsville, Pa.: people arriving so agitated, violent and psychotic that a small army of medical workers was needed to hold them down. They had taken new stimulant drugs that people are calling “bath salts,” and sometimes even large doses of sedatives failed to quiet them.

Telecoms increase push for rural broadband (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Willett)

At some rural hospitals X-rays have to be physically transported for review by specialists outside the area because the low bandwidth copper wire infrastructure cannot handle high-speed image transfer. Hospitals are just one example of how rural areas without broadband access are at a disadvantage, according to a group of rural telecom associations that are urging the Federal Communications Commission not to cut subsidies for installation of high-speed fiber optic infrastructure.

Growing infrastructure means customers bombarded with options (NS/Willett)

Huge investments in digital infrastructure by communications and entertainment providers are enabling new products and services that will change the way consumers access information at home or through wireless devices. The rollout of fourth generation wireless technology in Knoxville, combined with high-speed Internet upgrades based on fiber optics, increases competition in the market and dramatically expands the choices of digital products and services for local consumers.

Better data will help Memphis address unique employment challenges (CA/Fowlkes)

The United States is venturing into territory we have not seen in years: we are now into the third year of average annualized unemployment above 9 percent. These are numbers rivaled only by the recession in the early 1980s.

Bradley County to demolish storm-damaged school (Associated Press)

A Bradley County elementary school that was damaged during the April 27 tornado will be demolished. The Board of Education approved the plan on Thursday and also voted to allow the schools director to go forward with plans to purchase land to build a new school.

Charter School Battle Shifts to Affluent Suburbs (New York Times)

Matthew Stewart believes there is a place for charter schools. Just not in his schoolyard.

OPINION

Bob Cooper: New state law allows police to stop synthetic drug sales (DNJ)

A new Tennessee law is strengthening state and local law enforcement’s efforts to combat dangerous new synthetic drugs marketed under harmless-sounding names such as “bath salts” and “plant food.” My office has joined forces with the District Attorneys of Tennessee to spread the word that these substances sold as a legal way to get high are both illegal and extremely harmful.

Tom Humphrey: Nashville’s clothed in summer-weight controversies (N-S)

With the Legislature out of session and our sitting governor being a generally dull fellow insofar as generating controversy for Tennessee political junkies, interest has turned this summer to such weighty matters as: Rep. Julia Hurley, R-Lenoir City, has acknowledged carving her initials, JCH, on a desk in the House chamber during the early morning hours of the last day of the legislative session, triggering amazing array of commentary by bloggers around the nation. “I wasn’t thinking straight,” she said.

Editorial: Enacting a ‘Caylee Anthony Law’ in Tennessee can’t hurt (Jackson Sun)

In the wake of the “not guilty” verdict in the Casey Anthony trial, there has been a rash of legislation submitted around the country to require parents to report missing children. So-called Casey Anthony Laws only would affect a tiny fraction of child disappearance situations, but they certainly can’t hurt if carefully drafted.

Otis L. Sanford: ‘Caylee’s law’ bad response to Florida verdict (C. Appeal)

In 1994, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl named Megan Kanka was abducted, raped and killed by a twice-convicted child molester who had quietly moved in across the street from Megan’s family. Jesse Timmendequas was later convicted of the killing and sentenced to death.

Jimmy Eldridge: Republicans produced results that matter (Jackson Sun)

Recently, we celebrated our nation’s independence by remembering a time where we all came together to accomplish great things. History shows that when our people come together, progress can be made.

Michael Silence: Lawmaker meeting closed to public (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Government doesn’t seem to be getting more transparent. But spotting that lack of transparency is thanks to those Tennesseans who toil online on such matters.

Rick Womick: Amnesia of Tennessee Democrats (Daily News Journal)

There is an implied contract between citizens and their elected officials, one based on trust. Tennesseans trust candidates with their vote and they expect leaders to respect that trust by taking principled actions to move our state forward, represent them honorably, and present the facts for the general public to make future decisions.

Chris Peck: Norris knows state government (Commercial Appeal)

Sen. Mark Norris, Collierville farmer, Memphis lawyer and the Republican Majority Leader of the Tennessee State Senate, may never be a big name on Fox News, CNN or Huffington Post. He’s not one who screams and yells and isn’t into name-calling.

Guest columnist: State’s endorsement lifts Memphis schools (Tennessean)

The once-beleaguered district of Memphis City Schools is taking its rightful place in the vanguard of urban education reform, aided by the State Board of Education’s recent endorsement of our Teacher Effectiveness Measure, or TEM. The board’s decision means we can forgo statewide guidelines and instead use our own comprehensive tool —created by Memphis educators for Memphis educators — to define, identify and increase effective teaching.

Editorial: Solway sale first of many posed by Burchett (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett has sold the first piece of taxpayer property as part of his plan to raise cash to build a new elementary school in the Carter community. Natural Resources Recovery of Tennessee bought the Solway mulch facility it had been operating on a contract basis at a Wednesday auction.