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August 7 TN News Digest

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

Stores packed for tax holiday (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Pantazi)

The kids, parents and teachers formed a line and waited for their turns at Educational Outfitters on Gunbarrel Road. Shunta Scrugg’s turn. She was buying $125 worth of uniforms for her son Christian Jeter’s first year at the Chattanooga Charter School of Excellence.

Back-to-school shoppers enjoying sales tax break (Daily News Journal)

Savings continue today It was looking a lot like Christmas at local stores in Rutherford County as crowds of shoppers turned out to take advantage of the Tennessee sales tax holiday. “We’ve saved over $200,” said Monica Horton, who waited specifically for the tax-free weekend to do school clothes shopping for her daughters on Saturday.

Shoppers flood mall, stores for sales tax holiday (Jackson Sun)

Cars packed the parking lot at Old Hickory Mall on Saturday morning with shoppers from across West Tennessee looking for deals during the sixth annual sales tax holiday in Tennessee. Saturday marked the second day for shoppers to take advantage of tax-free purchases on clothing, school supplies and technology.

Mid-Southerners stock up on school supplies during tax holiday (WMC-TV)

The weekend tax holiday had shoppers in Arkansas and Tennessee trekking to stores in droves Saturday. Parents said tax-free shopping is the way to go on the cusp of the school year.

State grant helps Habitat build homes (Times-Gazette)

Bedford Builds Habitat for Humanity is the recipient of a “Coming Back Home” grant funded by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency and Habitat for Humanity of Tennessee. The grant was established to meet the housing needs of the very low income, elderly and special needs citizens of Tennessee.

Tenn. faces new Internet rules aimed at curbing piracy, bullying (TN/Wadhwani)

The Internet habits of Tennessee consumers are about to be subject to a lot more scrutiny, thanks to new laws and industry-imposed regulations being put into place this summer. One new state law — the first of its kind in the nation — makes sharing passwords to entertainment sites like Netflix and Rhapsody the same category of crime as running out on a restaurant tab.

Software speeds redistricting (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Haman)

Keystrokes have replaced man-hours in the decade since the Hamilton County Commission last redrew its political boundaries. Aided by a new $4,500 Web-based software package purchased by the Election Commission, the county’s Geographic Information Systems staff and individual county commissioners instantly have been able to view map changes that previously took hours or even days to calculate and draft.

Adversaries become allies to protect TN judge selection process (NS/Humphrey)

Business groups and trial lawyers, traditional adversaries on many issues, are poised to unite in pushing to preserve Tennessee’s current system for selecting state judges as it faces an upheaval without action by the Legislature next year. In this year’s legislative session, attorney organizations lobbied against business groups as Gov. Bill Haslam pushed tort reform legislation.

Freshmen talk debt vote (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Collins)

DesJarlais, Fleischmann rejected deal The negotiations were over, a deal was on the table, and decision time had come. But U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was decidedly undecided as he headed to the House floor Monday afternoon to vote on an emergency debt-limit, spending-cut package that would keep the government from defaulting on its financial obligations.

Uncle Sam’s credit score may affect Tennessee (Times Free-Press/Sher)

The decision by Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the U.S. government’s credit rating could affect future borrowing for states like Tennessee, which depend heavily on federal spending, experts say. One such expert is Eileen Norcross, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center in Virginia.

Southeast mandates little renewable energy (Associated Press)

States across the country gradually are forcing or cajoling their electric companies into buying renewable energy, but the trend has fallen flat in the Southeast. The map is striking. Of the 11 states that haven’t set even voluntary targets on how much alternative energy utilities must buy, eight of them are Southern states — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Hiroshima protests go quietly at Y-12 (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Munger)

It was simple and — most of all — peaceful. About 75 peace activists gathered Saturday near the entrance to the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant to recall the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, and repeat their vow of “Never Again.” Like protests of past years, participants marched across town, sang songs and tied paper peace cranes to the boundary fence at Y-12, which produced the enriched uranium for the “Little Boy” bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

Semis, cars vie for pavement (Tennessean/Gonzalez)

Interstate truck traffic expected to double over the next two decades In his 16 years behind the wheel of a big rig, trucker Clint Massey has seen traffic more than double on Interstate 24, the highway he drives across the region twice weekly. Regional truck traffic will double again in the coming two decades, projections say, adding to the kind of truck-heavy congestion that intimidates commuters and leaves drivers like Massey in a bind when seeking a place to rest.

FedExForum fund could take hit due to NBA lockout (Associated Press)

A fund used to pay off bonds that paid for the $250 million FedExForum could be pushed into the red by 2022 if the NBA lockout lasts the entire year, a situation that would force the city of Memphis and Shelby County to pay the shortfall. The Commercial Appeal reports that the lockout was a subject of discussion at Wednesday’s meeting of the Memphis and Shelby County Sports Authority.

Security change costly for Erlanger (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Carroll)

Despite a consultant’s recommendation, Erlanger Health System outsourced police jobs to a private company at nearly twice the cost and disregarded a pledge that former security officers would get first consideration if their department was restructured. “We wouldn’t leave you hanging out there and say, ‘well, you’re on your own,'” Chief Operating Officer Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson told a gathering of officers, according to a videotape obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Merger looms in background as Memphis, Shelby Co. schools open (CA/McMillin)

Consolidation issues unresolved For most of the approximately 150,000 students in Shelby County’s public schools, much will appear the same Monday when they report for the first of the 2011-12 academic year’s 180 days of school. Those who reside inside Memphis city limits will greet teachers and principals sporting badges with the “MCS” logo of Memphis City Schools.

Mem. City Schools officials want plan in place for when disaster strikes (CA/Robert)

When floodwaters lapped close to several Memphis City Schools last spring, district officials were worried for obvious reasons. Less obvious was the fact that MCS has no disaster data recovery plan.

‘My job is to carry the district forward’ (Jackson Sun)

Superintendent Thomas “Buddy” White crouched beside a crying first-grader at Andrew Jackson Elementary School last week and reminded her that she was among friends. He visited several schools on the first day of classes to talk to students, teachers and principals.

Leveling the paying field (Daily News Journal)

Audit, DNJ review shines light on need for more oversight on coaches’ extra pay It started with a parent’s complaint. Then came a scathing report from the State Comptroller’s Office about Riverdale’s Quarterback Club.

Rogersville man charged in meth bust (Times News)

A Rogersville man has been arrested and charged with possessing methamphetamine-making materials while on probation. According to a Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office news release, Tommy Kirk Albritton, 22, was arrested Tuesday after surrendering various meth-making materials to officers who responded to his home at 126 Landsdown Drive to investigate a report that he was “possibly” in the process of making meth.

2 face meth charges after home searched (Jackson Sun)

Troy Dean Edgin, 28, and Russell G. Collins, 46, both of Jackson, were arrested on meth charges Friday and transported to the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex. Edgin and Collins are charged with initiation of methamphetamine manufacture, possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell or deliver, felony possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of drug paraphernalia.

OPINION

Kevin Huffman: Federal law has not kept up with education reforms (Tennessean)

Last week, Tennessee became one of the first states to seek a waiver from federal rules under the now-obsolete No Child Left Behind Act. We did this despite our belief that the law has been good for the country and has changed the discussion about education for all children.

Editorial: NCLB: If you can’t revise it, waive it (Tennessean)

Exemption could help TN schools focus on learning State officials have asked that Tennessee be exempted from the federal No Child Left Behind law. If granted the waiver, it is unlikely that there will be any regrets. In the nine years since NCLB was enacted, support for the law, which is meant to improve educational standards nationwide and help America compete on the global stage, has gradually declined as educators, parents and community leaders have grown disenchanted with the results.

Guest columnist: Fix No Child rather than bail out on it (Tennessean)

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 promised to improve public schools by enforcing a system of standards and accountability through what has become known as “high stakes testing.” Many gave support because of its promise to improve most especially the schools and academic experiences of, in the words of sociologist William Julius Wilson, the truly disadvantaged.

Editorial: Sales tax holiday needed by retailers and consumers (News-Sentinel)

Today is the last day of Tennessee’s sales tax holiday weekend, a welcome opportunity for residents to get a discount of nearly 10 percent on back-to-school items while supporting the state’s retailers. Parents and students have until 11:59 p.m. to purchase clothing, school supplies, art supplies and computers without paying any sales tax.

Editorial: State sales tax holiday is in its final hours (Jackson Sun)

Clearing the desk of significant notes, we find that this is the final day for the state of Tennessee’s annual sales tax holiday. You have until 11:59 p.m. to avoid paying sales tax when you purchase clothing and school supplies that cost $100 or less per item and computers that cost $1,500 or less.

Editorial: Welcome rest from a crisis (Commercial Appeal)

Memphis City Schools and Memphis City Hall have some trust to restore as they’re not through with each other yet. The crisis that created hungry news consumers among worried teenagers throughout Memphis is over.

Editorial: United Way takes up battle cry for local ‘generation of readers’ (OR)

A brief missive sent out this week by Rick Morrow, executive director of the United Way of Anderson County, caught our attention. Titled “A generation of readers!”, Morrow’s e-mail references a July release from the state’s Department of Education announcing the launch of ReadTennessee.org — a website to “help teachers, parents and community members understand new curriculum standards and increased expectations for learning.”

Guest columnist: Risky ritual for state Legislature (Leaf Chronicle)

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.

Tom Humphrey: Some constitutional questions answered, but others ignored (N-S)

Article VI, Section 3 of Tennessee’s state constitution has received a fair amount of attention in the Legislature during recent years. A lot of other provisions in the venerable and debatable document have not.

Editorial: Catoosa closed due to cowardly vandals (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency temporarily closed the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area last week to remove spikes and nail boards left behind by vandals. TWRA officials say they believe the vandals are angry over changes in the management of the area’s wild hog population.

Clay Bennett Political Cartoon: “That Smell” (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Gail Kerr: Nashville can now stick its nose up at Chattanooga (Tennessean)

Nashville has long had a jealous play cousin relationship with our nearby neighbor Chattanooga. Chattanooga redeveloped its riverfront into a hip destination while we sat on our hands.

Free-Press Editorial: Employee No. 2,000 at VW! (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

You might have read that Chattanooga’s big new Volkswagen manufacturing plant passed a milestone recently: It hired its 2,000th employee! The worker, Amanda Sullivan, is from nearby Cleveland, VW officials said, and will work in the assembly shop.

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