August 2 TN News Digest

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

State officials announce $1.96M grant for Harding Place sidewalks (City Paper)

Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer announced Monday a $1.96 million transportation enhancement grant to fund Phase I improvements to Harding Place in south Davidson County. The project — referred to as the Harding Place Pedestrian Network Project — will add sidewalks (currently there are none) from the foot-traffic-heavy Harding Place from Nolensville Road to Tampa Drive.

Metro Launches Largest Sidewalk Project Under Mayor Dean (WPLN-Radio Nash.)

The well-worn foot paths along Harding Place in South Nashville will soon become concrete sidewalks. City and state officials announced a federal grant Monday that – along with $2.5 million from Metro – will fund sidewalks from I-24 to Nolensville Pike. Shelia Haynes lives in apartments on the stretch of Harding Place where several pedestrians have been struck by cars, including a young boy just last month.

Spears Coastline Plastic to call Tennessee home (Business Clarksville)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty joined representatives from Spears Coastline Plastic LLC today to announce the company’s purchase of the New Tech Color Additives building in the Pulaski/Giles County Industrial Park. Spears Coastline Plastic is a leading manufacturer of Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride (CPVC) pipe for fire protection, plumbing and industrial market applications and will be transferring its Ardmore, Ala.-based manufacturing facility to the Pulaski facility over the next few months, bringing 25 jobs to the region, with the intent to add 25 more within a five year period.

New road, new challenges ahead for Franklin Civil War park (Tennessean/Walters)

With a new $500,000 commitment from the state, supporters of Franklin’s Civil War park finally have renewed momentum to launch a project that’s seen its share of delays, costs and questions since the land was first purchased in 2005. Now, Mayor Ken Moore and city aldermen must move forward on building a new road off Lewisburg Pike into the site and finishing the 110-acre Eastern Flank of the Battle of Franklin park that preservationists worked years to purchase.

Washington Can’t Ignore Amazon Sales-Tax Issue Indefinitely: Haslam (TN Report)

Bill Haslam may be the one person in Tennessee who has full faith and confidence that Congress will act. No, not on the national debt or debt-ceiling.

State, Amazon discuss Internet retailer collecting sales taxes (City Paper/Garrison)

State officials are negotiating with Amazon on a new deal under which the Internet retailer could agree to collect Tennessee sales taxes from its customers at some point in the future, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick says. McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said Monday he expects an agreement to be reached before next year’s legislative session when some lawmakers have threatened to push a bill to require Amazon to collect the tax for online purchases.

Local shopping expert offers advice on tax-free weekend savings (WKRN-TV)

As retailers began preparations for the upcoming tax free weekend, one local shopping expert said customers may not receive the most savings on their purchases. According to shopping expert and author Kelly Hancock of www.faithfulprovisions.com, shoppers will save the most money by purchasing items such as computers.

State wants parents to know about CoverKids (Associated Press)

The state wants to make sure parents are aware of Tennessee’s low-cost, comprehensive health insurance plan for children. Information about CoverKids will be going home with school children throughout the state in their back-to-school packets.

State investigates deadly fire at elderly sisters’ home (WSMV-TV Nashville)

Channel 4 has learned state investigators want to know what happened inside the Drakes Hill Drive home before it caught fire with two elderly sisters inside. Firefighters tell us the fire started after a stove was left unattended.

Prosecutor Steve Sword sworn in as Knox Criminal Court judge (N-S/Satterfield)

Knox County’s newest judge donned his black robe for the first time Monday. Steve Sword, 41, was sworn into office as Criminal Court judge in a brief ceremony attended by his wife and two daughters. A veteran Knox County prosecutor, Sword was tapped earlier this month by Gov. Bill Haslam to take over a judgeship left vacant when former Judge Richard Baumgartner was forced to resign.

Tenn. lawmakers pass legislation affecting 1 man (Associated Press)

A new Tennessee law benefits an Oak Ridge man despite the state constitution’s ban on enacting measures on behalf of just one person. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported (http://bit.ly/nSF7jI) Monday that the legislation was introduced by two Oak Ridge Republicans to correct what Rep. John Ragan called an “injustice” toward 67-year-old James D. Harless, who retired from the state Department of Environment and Conservation.

556 Tennessee state workers denied pay raises (Chatt. Times Free-Press/Sher)

Figures show 556 state workers, or 1.3 percent of Tennessee government’s work force, were denied across-the-board pay increases July 1 after Gov. Bill Haslam changed existing policy and blocked raises for those disciplined in the past year. Responding to an information request from the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the state Human Resources Department said the workers were among 771 employees denied the 1.6 percent cost of living increase, the first rise in pay after three years.

Marion County examining redistricting for 2012 elections (Times Free-Press/Lewis)

Marion County commissioners have begun the initial steps in examining redistricting for the 2012 elections. County Mayor John Graham said the county is required to review the districts every 10 years. “This is the year we have to have it done,” he said.

Most TN House members back debt deal (Tennessean/Bewley)

The compromise debt-limit legislation that passed the House Monday doesn’t do enough to cut federal spending, but it’s better than nothing, according to many Tennessee lawmakers. Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper and Republican Reps. Marsha Blackburn, Diane Black, Stephen Fincher, John Duncan and Phil Roe voted for the bill, which would cap discretionary spending and reduce budget deficits by $917 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Tennessee representatives weigh in on debt ceiling bill (News-Sentinel/Collins)

A late-hour plan to raise the nation’s borrowing authority passed the U.S. House on Monday with the support of two of the chamber’s four East Tennesseans, just hours before the government was expected to run out of money to pay its bills. The measure, which would extend the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by up to $2.4 trillion and cut federal spending by more than $2 trillion over the next decade, cleared the House on a 269-161 vote.

Alexander Welcomes Debt Ceiling Deal, Withholds Commitment (WPLN-Radio)

As details of a debt ceiling deal are working their way around Washington, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is the first in the state’s congressional delegation to release a statement. Alexander calls a bi-partisan agreement “welcome news.”

States and Cities Brace for Less Federal Money (New York Times)

The deficit reduction deal reached in Washington produced some relief across the country on Monday, as the nation appeared to have avoided default. But it also produced a sharp wave of anxiety among governors and mayors worried about how the cuts might hurt already beleaguered states and cities, and it sowed anger and cynicism among many Americans about leaders in Washington.

For states, debt deal is short on details (Stateline)

As state officials begin to decipher Washington’s spending reduction deal, it’s clear that federal aid to states for certain programs will take a hit over the next decade. But it will be a while before they know exactly which programs and how big a hit.

Spending cuts could face headwinds this year: a weak economy (USA Today)

Political leaders in Washington, D.C., who expect to cobble together a plan for massive budget cuts later this year are making a big bet on an uncertain outcome: a strong economy. The plan approved Monday night by the House of Representatives includes a special congressional committee tasked with trimming the deficit by about $1.5 trillion over 10 years by November.

Insurers must cover birth control with no copays (Associated Press)

Health insurance plans must cover birth control as preventive care for women, with no copays, the Obama administration said Monday in a decision with far-reaching implications for health care as well as social mores. The requirement is part of a broad expansion of coverage for women’s preventive care under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Insurance Coverage for Contraception Is Required (New York Times)

The Obama administration issued new standards on Monday that require health insurance plans to cover all government-approved contraceptives for women, without co-payments or other charges. The standards, which also guarantee free coverage of other preventive services for women, follow recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences and grew out of the new health care law.

Tennessee OKs expansion for Memorial hospital (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

State officials approved Memorial Health Care System’s certificate-of-need application to expand the hospital’s Hixson location, according to a news release. The plan includes a replacement of the intensive care unit and renovations to the emergency department, endoscopy unit and radiology space, the release stated.

Displaced GM workers retool for new professions (Tennessean/Wiersma)

One Spring Hill worker is now a teacher. Others are finding new paths, with help. John Wilson looked around an auditorium full of new teachers and felt a little conspicuous — and at the same time, he felt confident. “I was by far the oldest brand-new teacher in there by a couple of decades,” said Wilson, who will welcome his first students next week as a chemistry and physics teacher at Ravenwood High School.

Metro schools fail to make adequate yearly progress (City Paper/Garrison)

Three days after Gov. Bill Haslam asked the federal government to waive No Child Left Behind requirements in Tennessee, Metro school officials on Monday released test results that, as expected, show the district’s students aren’t meeting federal targets. Due in part to heightened academic standards implemented last year, 55 Metro schools are categorized as “high priority” under the national education law, Director of Schools Jesse Register told reporters Monday.

Nashville schools turnaround plan set (Tennessean/Sisk)

10 low performers selected for Metro’s ‘innovation cluster’ Metro Nashville Public Schools is pulling out 10 low-performing schools from the rest of the district in a bid to turn them around and avoid greater state involvement in Metro schools. School officials announced that seven middle schools, two high schools and an elementary school will be shifted into an “innovation cluster,” in which officials will work with teachers and an outside consulting group to develop tailored turnaround plans during the upcoming school year.

Metro Schools Tally of Struggling Schools Rises (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

The number of Metro schools in trouble under No Child Left Behind has shot up from 32 to 55. But district officials say the test data shows plenty to be happy about.

4 Sumner schools now on ‘high priority’ list (Hendersonville Star News)

Gov. Haslam to seek NCLB waiver Four Sumner County schools have been added to the state’s “high priority” list, meaning they failed to meet federal academic benchmarks under No Child Left Behind in the same category for two years in a row, according to Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) data released Friday by the Tennessee Department of Education. Schools added to the state department’s high priority list were Gallatin’s Rucker-Stewart and Joe Shafer and White House middle schools for failing to make annual yearly progress for two years in math.

Rutherford school board votes to rebid Stewarts Creek High project (Gannett)

The Stewarts Creek High School project will be rebid later this month, as the Rutherford County Board of Education voted Monday to rescind its award of the contract upon recommendation of a state agency. Director of Schools Harry Gill Jr. received a letter from Carolyn Lazenby, executive director of the state Board for Licensing Contractors, last week stating that her board recommended local school officials throw out all bids for the high school, scheduled to open in August 2013 in southwest Smyrna.

Shelby County Schools halts fakery for enrollment (Commercial Appeal/Silence)

Parents use skullduggery to register kids out of zone Shelby County Schools officials rejected more than 500 registration applications in June and July from parents trying to illegally enroll their kids in school with deceptive information, fake mortgage statements and “cut and paste” utility bills. Parents with phony residency documents make up a fourth of those who have applied to register their kids in the suburban system as “lives with” students this year.

Council to vote on funding for MCS (Commercial Appeal/Maki)

Anticipated agreement to clear way for opening of schools on time after past impasse The City Council will vote today on the Memphis City Schools’ budget, and also will discuss city layoffs, salary reductions and possible revisions to the city’s retirement system. “It’s an extremely busy day, and an extremely important day with important decisions to make,” said council chairman Myron Lowery.

Council to Approve Schools Budget (Memphis Daily News)

Memphis City Council members meet Tuesday, Aug. 2, to approve a budget for Memphis City Schools that is expected to include a monthly payment plan to cover $68.4 million in city funding. Passage of the item on the regular council agenda would end a funding standoff between City Hall and Memphis City Schools that threatened to delay the Aug. 8 start of classes for the 2011-2012 school year.

MCS negotiates with city to run Whitehaven golf course (CA/Conley, Roberts)

Memphis City Schools is interested in using Whitehaven Golf Course to teach its students the game and the life skills the game teaches. Negotiations with the city are in the early stages, said Deputy Supt. Irving Hamer.

OPINION

Sheila Butt: Haslam visits Maury County (Columbia Daily Herald)

On Thursday, July 28th, Governor Haslam, Senator Ketron and I visited the city of Spring Hill and presented a $69,000 Safe Route to Schools grant for some additional sidewalk for the school children. Columbia also has a grant for a Safe Route to Schools project at Oak Springs and Hampshire Pike. Sidewalk and a traffic light are to be installed there.

Free-Press Editorial: Hamilton County Schools’ troubling report (Times Free-Press)

With the academic achievement of our children being vital to the future prosperity and stability of the United States, it is obviously important for schools to offer youngsters educational opportunities that promote their success. So it is very disappointing that fewer than half of Hamilton County schools earned “good standing” this year under federal standards, according to state information released recently.

Bill Ketron: Photo identification will deter voter fraud (Tennessean)

Tennesseans are required to show photo identification for everything from making a purchase at the mall or boarding a plane to cashing a check, and we do it without complaint. So why shouldn’t we do the same for something as precious as the right to vote?

Lowe Finney: New ID law is an election disaster (Tennessean)

Seniors, disabled, veterans unfairly shoulder burden It is a little over a year until the 2012 elections, and you’re eligible to vote for the first time. Or maybe you’ve moved to another county, or you haven’t voted in a while and need to know your precinct.

Editorial: Last-minute rush of bills is risky ritual for state Legislature (N-S)

With clear Republican majorities in both houses of the Legislature and a Republican in the governor’s mansion, lawmakers might pride themselves on finishing legislative business earlier than usual. During these hot summer months, however, the legislators should consider whether their efforts at efficiency made them sacrifice clarity and whether some potentially harmful or sloppy lawmaking slipped through.

Sam Stockard: Redistricting email points to divisions within local GOP (DNJ)

A “political alert” circulating on the Internet shows the local Republican Party may be intent on eating its young, unsatisfied with holding nearly every elected office in the county. Apparently, the problem is some folks just aren’t conservative enough, according to the email being sent across Rutherford County.