August 5 TN News Digest

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

State’s annual sales tax-free holiday ready for weekend run (City Paper)

Tennessee shoppers are taking advantage of three days of savings during the state’s annual tax-free holiday that runs from Friday through Sunday. Consumers in Nashville can save 9.25 percent in local and state sales taxes on eligible purchases, including clothes and school and art supplies priced at $100 or less and computers priced at $1,500 or less.

Tennessee sales tax holiday begins Friday (Nashville Business Journal)

Tennessee retailers are bracing for an uptick in sales this weekend as shoppers ready to take advantage of the three-day sales tax holiday. Consumers in Nashville will save 9.25 percent — once state and local sales taxes are waived — on eligible purchases which include clothing items priced at $100 or less, school supplies priced at $100 or less and computers priced at $1,500 or less.

Retailers celebrate tax holiday (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Hardy)

Tennessee and Alabama shoppers are poised to save millions this weekend as the two states continue their back-to-school sales tax holidays. The three-day sales tax hiatus applies to school supplies such as notebooks, pencils and art supplies as well as many electronic products such as personal computers.

Retailers stock up for tax-free weekend (Johnson City Press)

Beginning today, a majority of “back-to-school” items will cost about 10 percent less than usual. The sixth annual Sales Tax Holiday for Tennesseans will last through Sunday and local retailers have been stocking up for a surge of customers looking to buy school supplies, clothing and big ticket items like computers.

Sales Tax Holiday will kick off Friday (Cleveland Daily Banner)

Back-to-school time means some extra spending for Cleveland and Bradley County parents, but it also translates into opportunities for major cost savings; at least, for a long three-day weekend that starts Friday. Tennessee’s sixth annual Sales Tax Holiday, which can save consumers 10 percent on tax-free clothing, school and art supplies, as well as computer purchases, kicks off Friday at 12:01 a.m. and runs through Sunday, Aug. 7, at 11:59 p.m.

Sales tax holiday on purchases attracts fewer takers (Associated Press/Johnson)

Tennesseans taking advantage of the state’s sixth annual sales tax holiday this weekend say it provides needed relief in a tough economy, but state figures show that shoppers aren’t using it as much as they first did. Today through Sunday, there will be no sales tax applied to purchases like clothing, school and art supplies and computers.

Sales tax holidays arrive, despite economists’ grumblings (Stateline)

This weekend begins a summertime rite of passage for some states: the sales tax holiday. Some 17 states this year are temporarily waiving their sales taxes on clothing, backpacks and other items deemed essential for students headed back to school. Though sales tax holidays are popular with shoppers, economists have long complained that the events don’t actually stimulate spending that wouldn’t have happened anyway.

First Lady Haslam Hosts Military Spouses (TN Report)

First Lady Crissy Haslam today hosted more than 100 spouses of deployed soldiers of the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard for a reception at the Tennessee Residence. The purpose of the event was to honor the sacrifices that military families have made and to pay tribute to the spouses who play a vital role in our nation’s defense.

Guthrie charged TennCare fraud (Cleveland Daily Banner)

The office of the Inspector General has charged a Bradley County man with alleged TennCare fraud. Clifford Michael Guthrie, 29, was booked into the Bradley County Jail Tuesday, according to reports from the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.

Tennessee schools get $3 million for fresh fruit, veggies (Tennessean/Hubbard)

Tennessee schools will share $3 million in federal funding for more students to eat healthy fresh fruit and vegetables this school year. The state was awarded a $3.15 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prepare the healthy snacks at no charge to students in 156 low-income elementary and middle schools.

Provider’s grant may be extended (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Carroll, Sher)

A top state official is offering to extend a $774,000 grant for Chattanooga-based TEAM Centers Inc. through June 30, 2012, so the provider has more time to pursue alternative funding for diagnostic and treatment services it provides to people with intellectual disabilities. “I’m probably going to give them another year,” state Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Jim Henry told the Times Free Press on Thursday.

Politics not ‘at play’ over landfill expansion, TDEC says (Marshall County Tribune)

There have been reactions to reports that a state department’s reconsideration of permitting expansion of Cedar Ridge Landfill — instead of leaving the decision to the state Solid Waste Disposal Control Board — is a result of a business friendly governor succeeding one perceived as environmentally friendly. A state spokeswoman says that’s not what’s happening since Republican Gov. Bill Haslam succeeded Democrat Phil Bredesen.

Jackson Sues Judges Over Suspension (Memphis Daily News)

General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson is suing the General Sessions Court Judges who suspended him from office earlier this week. Attorney Jay Bailey, representing Jackson, filed the petition late Thursday in Chancery Court seeking an injunction from Chancellor Walter Evans to stop the suspension.

New Tennessee legislation aims to protect roadside utility workers (N-S/Vela)

An expansion on Tennessee’s “Move Over” law gives added protection to roadside workers and makes it a legislative leader in the country. The updated law, which took effect July 1, requires vehicles to shift over, yield if necessary or slow down and proceed with caution if that’s the only option to create a buffer for electric and other utility vehicles with flashing lights parked on the side.

Knox redistricting proposals would match board, commission lines (NS/Balloch)

Four plans. Eight maps. One vision. A common thread in a package of redistricting proposals for how Knox County Commission and Knox County Board of Education voting districts will be drawn is to show how both political bodies can have the same district lines.

Middle Tennesseans move from fat to fit (Tennessean/Quinn)

As Tennessee wrestles with widespread obesity, some residents reap the benefits of major life changes Tennesseans will do battle over which restaurant makes the best biscuits. It’s a state where macaroni and cheese is listed under a menu’s vegetable category.

Bledsoe group keeps relief efforts going (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Benton)

Just over three months after two tornadoes, one an EF4, ripped across Walden’s Ridge on the Bledsoe-Rhea county line, state and federal officials are teaming with local folks to keep help available for victims of disaster. About 40 to 50 local residents in July underwent training provided by the federal and Tennessee emergency management agencies to form a disaster aid group called People Helping People Recover from Disasters, Bledsoe County Mayor Bobby Collier said Thursday.

People React To “Smelly” Chattanooga Story (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)

When New York-based writer Jamie Kitman came to Chattanooga to tell the Volkswagen story for Automobile magazine his focus shifted. That’s because Kitman discovered a dirty little secret to outsiders — our downtown sewer system sometimes belches an obnoxious odor during hot, dry weather.

Jackson airport losing airline that provides Nashville service (Tenn./Bewley)

Flights to and from Nashville will end Sept. 30; airport could also lose subsidies Commercial air service to Jackson’s McKellar-Sipes Airport was dealt a double blow Thursday. First, the airport’s director said the commercial airline that provides flights to and from Nashville won’t continue service after Sept. 30.

No easy explanations: Why are Smokies visits plummeting? (NS/Blackerby)

Mary Webb has greeted inquiring tourists at the Townsend Visitors Center with a pleasing smile and answered questions with aplomb since 1997. Visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, of course, want to know the best places to eat, camp, hike and fish — and Webb can answer most any of their questions.

TVA cuts power at Browns Ferry nuclear plant because of warmer river (TN/Paine)

TVA has reduced power by about half at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant since Monday because of rising temperatures in the Tennessee River. But the frequent and costly problem could be fixed soon.

TVA uses sand baskets as temp. fixes for flawed flooding calculations (TFP/Sohn)

Sand baskets installed to protect against extreme flooding and protect nuclear plants at Watts Bar and three other TVA dams have upstream neighbors unhappy about their new views. But the safety vs. beauty question — prompted by a decades-old mistaken calculation by TVA — may mean even more dams must be raised with sandbags or permanent fixes, according to the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Tennessee to keep Moody’s top rating (Nashville Business Journal)

Moody’s Investors Service, which warned that Tennessee and four other states with close ties to the federal government could lose their top credit ratings, said those states will keep their Aaa ratings after Congress reached agreement on lifting the debt ceiling. On Tuesday, Moody’s confirmed it would not downgrade its ratings on U.S. debt.

Five Rutherford Co. booster clubs paid coaches (Tennessean/Taft)

Football coaches at five Rutherford County high schools have been receiving unauthorized payments by booster clubs, a violation of state government policy and state athletic association regulations. A recent internal audit by the school system has revealed that booster clubs at Blackman, Oakland, Riverdale, Siegel and Smyrna have been making the improper payments, dating back to the 2008-09 school year.

College launches mentor program (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Leach)

Cleveland State Community College, in cooperation with the Allan Jones Foundation, has launched bradleyAchieves, a financial and mentoring program to give Bradley County high school graduates an opportunity to attend the college in return for community service. “This is a great day for education,” Cleveland State president Dr. Carl Hite said Thursday afternoon while announcing the program’s launch.

Blount school board rejects charter school’s application (News-Sentinel/Wilson)

By unanimous vote, the Blount County Board of Education rejected an application to establish Hope Academy, the first charter school in Tennessee outside an urban area. A member of the board of the Innovative Education Partnership, the organization trying to gain approval of the school, said the action was not unexpected and that it is “another step” in the process.

Council members riled over raises for Memphis City Schools admins (CA/Roberts)

The City Council approved the Memphis schools budget this week, and although they have no say over how the money is spent, individual council members are peeved that it will include raises for school administrators. Workers in Memphis City Schools got a 1.6 percent raise, effective July 1, part of 4.6 percent in wage increases they have received since July 1, 2008.

Tri-state area ‘abnormally dry’ (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Johns)

The tri-state area is “abnormally dry,” according to a drought report issued Thursday. The classification doesn’t quite mean that drought has returned, only that it could be on the way, according to William Schmitz, a climatologist with the Southeast Regional Climate Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Police find meth lab at Evansville residence (State Gazette)

Two suspects were taken into custody on Tuesday evening after Dyersburg Police discovered the components of a meth lab in a residence in Evansville. Chris Burns, 38, 119 First Ave., Evansville, and Tabatha Rogers, 34, 121 Walnut Drive, are both charged with initiating methamphetamine manufacture.

Colorado: County Ups the Ante in Voucher War (Wall Street Journal)

In a bold bid to revamp public education, a suburban district south of Denver has begun handing out vouchers that use public money to help its largely affluent residents send their children to private and church-based schools. The move is being challenged in state court and a judge has held hearings this week to determine if the program can go forward.

OPINION 

Columnist: Tort reform: the verdict is in (Lexology)

When the 107th General Assembly convened this January, the Republican Party controlled the legislature and Governor’s office for the first time in modern Tennessee history. Newly-elected Governor Bill Haslam was determined to make Tennessee more attractive to businesses, and key among his initiatives was tort reform.

Columnist: If momma’s not happy, nobody’s happy (Marshall County Tribune)

A reader suggested I get out of the office, venture out and return with a broader view of things. So I did when Gov. Bill Haslam went to the Copper Kettle restaurant near Maury County’s Courthouse in Columbia.

Editorial: Huffman’s visit to Haywood County focused on kids (Jackson Sun)

We were please to see Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman in West Tennessee this week when he spoke to Haywood County educators. Huffman brings a lot of public education experience to the job and a keen eye for doing things that matter most to students when it comes to education reform.

Times Editorial: Optimism about Hamilton County schools (Times Free-Press)

The challenges facing Hamilton County schools over the coming year and further into the future are big. Among them: • Enrollment in the system is expected to increase this fall by roughly 500 students — although funding for the schools is already strained in this time of economic crisis, and lots of new money is unlikely.

Editorial: Don’t allow politics to overshadow redistricting (Daily News Journal)

When you’re talking about the redistricting process, “politics” will always be involved. And that’s the case now as Rutherford County prepares to redraw County Commission district lines.

Diane Black: Fight over spending is just beginning (Tennessean)

I came to Congress because I believe government has gotten completely out of control. The size and scope of the federal system is far beyond what the Founders ever intended.

Editorial: TVA’s plans for park near spill site should benefit community (N-S)

The Tennessee Valley Authority announced plans on Tuesday to convert a residential area adjacent to the Kingston coal-ash spill site into a park and recreational area. The proposal — which involves demolishing houses and includes baseball diamonds, soccer fields, walking trails and wetlands — would ensure that private property the federal utility bought after the spill will be used for the public good.

Editorial: Copper capers are on the rise (Commercial Appeal)

Watching houses would help: A casualty of the mortgage crisis is the damage to property values that thieves can inflict. It would be hard to tally the damage from the home mortgage crisis that gripped Memphis and the rest of the country in the late 2000s.