August 10 TN News Digest

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

Gov. Haslam is vice chair of governors association’s education committee (AP)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has been named vice chairman of the National Governors Association Education, Early Childhood and Workforce Committee. The committee has jurisdiction over issues in the area of education — including early childhood, elementary and secondary education, and higher education — as well as workforce development and labor.

US education secy. to participate in round table (Associated Press)

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will participate in a round table discussion Wednesday in Nashville with rural school administrators. He’s expected to be joined by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.

Ed Department Highlights Tennessee in Advocating for NCLB Changes (WPLN)

Tennessee has become the U.S. Department of Education’s case in point when it comes to why No Child Left Behind needs to change. Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday that President Obama has authorized him to grant waivers to states like Tennessee that have increased testing standards.

American Queen Steamboat Will Call Memphis Home (Memphis Daily News)

The city of Memphis now owns a $9 million interest in The American Queen steamboat, the only overnight cruise boat working the Mississippi River when it leaves its Memphis port in April….A call to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration in Nashville led the group to the doorstep of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. who had already seen and absorbed their business plan before GASC arrived in town.

Tennessee finishes year with tax surplus (Tennessean/Sisk)

Tennessee wrapped up its fiscal year by beating expectations, bringing in $19.9 million more than officials had budgeted for July. The state booked $843.3 million in July, 1.17 percent more than a year ago, led by another rise in sales tax collections.

Cleveland, Marion airport projects get grant funding (Times Free-Press/Benton)

Public airports in Cleveland, Tenn., and Marion County are awaiting the go-ahead from the state to begin projects funded in part with an $850,000 chunk of $5.5 million in state grants for infrastructure improvements. A $550,000 Tennessee Aeronautics Division grant through the Tennessee Department of Transportation will fund engineering services for Cleveland’s new airport in the Michigan Avenue-Tasso Road area north of town, officials said.

Giles Man Accused Of Doctor Shopping (WKSR-Radio Pulaski)

A Giles County man is accused of doctor shopping and using his TennCare benefits to obtain a high-powered painkiller. According to a news release by the Tennessee Office of Inspector General, forty year old Tracy B. White was indicted by a Moore County grand jury on suspicion that he saw multiple physicians within a 30-day period to obtain prescriptions for Oxycodone.

Cronan charged TennCare fraud (Cleveland Daily Banner)

The Tennessee Office of Inspector General has charged another area resident with TennCare fraud. Melissa Faye Cronan, 45, of Old Fort made her first appearance in Bradley County Criminal Court Monday after an OIG investigation revealed she was allegedly “doctor shopping.” She was charged in June, according to Bradley County Sheriff’s Office records.

UT secures nuclear research grants (Associated Press)

The University of Tennessee has received research grants of up to $1.38 million from the Department of Energy. The aim of the grants is to develop cutting-edge nuclear energy technologies, training and education.

Uniforms are ill fit on TWRA women (Tennessean/Paine)

Wearing a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency uniform can be a matter of pride — unless, perhaps, you’re a woman and it doesn’t fit. Kimberly Elkin, a biologist who left the agency in June, spent the past few years there trying to do something about the scarcity of female-sized clothing offered for field employees. “When I would go to a meeting, I would just look ridiculous,” said Elkin, who now works for a nonprofit in Alaska.

Gilmore leads Nashville delegation in per diem this year (City Paper/Woods)

State Rep. Brenda Gilmore has collected the most daily expense cash of any state legislator from Nashville so far this year, according to new figures. Gilmore raked in $16,192 in the $176 daily allowances, easily more than her nearest rival for the dubious honor.

GOP comptroller knew of Amazon sales tax deal (Associated Press/Schelzig)

A high-ranking state Republican official kept tabs on negotiations by the previous Democratic administration that gave online retailer Amazon.com a sales tax exclusion in Tennessee. Comptroller Justin Wilson confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday that he was kept informed of the details of the deal struck by former Gov. Phil Bredesen to bring jobs to the state.

Tennessee voters will need photo ID in 2012 (Business Clarksville)

Beginning January 1, 2012, Tennessee voters will be required to show a government-issued photo ID when voting in all elections. The first election to be impacted by this law is the March 2012 presidential primary.

Steep Growth in Number of Children on Food Stamps (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

An increasing number of Tennessee’s children are growing up in households where putting food on the table is a challenge. The latest Kids Count report shows it’s a problem that nearly doubled in less than a decade.

Rural County’s Budget Woes Start with Loss of Property Value (WPLN-Radio)

When Humphreys County, a sprawling rural county northwest of Nashville, had a property reappraisal this year, they found the county didn’t gain in value – it lost. Humphreys is among a half dozen Tennessee counties where the property tax base in slipping.

Lebanon mayor holds public information days (Associated Press)

Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead is starting a new tradition on Wednesdays to invite members of the public to ask him questions, share concerns or voice an opinion on city issues. Starting this week, he will be available all day for people to speak to him on any number of issues, from budgets to the daily operations of the city, Craighead told The Lebanon Democrat (http://bit.ly/qEiwhs).

Haslam adviser Tom Ingram joins Huntsman presidential campaign (Tenn/Sisk)

Political strategist Tom Ingram is joining the presidential campaign of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, taking on a role similar to the one he played in Bill Haslam’s successful run for Tennessee governor last year. Ingram said Tuesday that he has signed onto the Huntsman campaign as a consultant through the 2012 election.

Knoxville strategist signs on to advise Huntsman pres. campaign (NS/Humphrey)

The political strategist who helped Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker get elected has signed on to work for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign. Tom Ingram, who lives in Knoxville, began formally working this week as a consultant to the Huntsman campaign.

States Pitch a Lifestyle to Lure Gun Makers From Their Longtime Homes (NY Times)

For more than a century, the nation’s firearms industry, including iconic brands like Colt, Smith & Wesson and Winchester, has been concentrated in Northeastern and Midwestern states that now have restrictive gun-control laws. But recently, states like Idaho, Alabama and Montana have presented a novel argument as part of an effort to lure the firearms industry’s high-paying jobs south and west: Gun makers would be happier and more successful among citizens who regularly use firearms than they would be remaining in states trying to limit gun rights.

Group: Reviving TVA nuke plant plan carries risks (Associated Press/Poovey)

Opponents of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s plans to revive its mothballed Bellefonte Nuclear Plant said Tuesday that unanswered safety and cost questions should delay, if not stop, the utility board from moving ahead with the project on Aug. 18. Stephen Smith, director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said there are questions about structural and radioactive containment problems similar to cracks discovered in a nuclear plant containment vessel in Florida.

TVA Could Soon Restart Work at Bellefonte (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

The Tennessee Valley Authority will soon decide whether to move forward on restarting work at an old nuclear plant in Alabama, southwest of Chattanooga. But a watchdog group says it wouldn’t be worth the trouble to salvage TVA’s Bellefonte plant, which has sat unfinished for decades.

TVA rejects report criticizing plan to complete Bellefonte plant (Tenn/Paine)

TVA will be making a “bad nuclear bet” if it gambles billions of dollars on completing the almost 40-year-old Bellefonte nuclear plant project, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said Tuesday. An analysis by a nuclear engineer identified several areas of risk that would cause “further delays, additional costs, and even possible suspension of the project,” the group said.

Report says Bellefonte risks too great (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sohn)

With the clock ticking down to TVA’s board consideration next week of the $4 billion to $5 billion completion of Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy unveiled a new report Tuesday alleging “seven major factors” why the project should not go forward. Calling Bellefonte “TVA’s bad nuclear bet,” the alliance’s executive director, Stephen Smith, said the 37-year-old, half-finished and cannibalized nuclear plant has document problems that make it “too risky” for safety and fiscal reasons.

TVA refutes environmental group’s report on Bellefonte plan (N-S/Huotari)

In dueling teleconferences Tuesday, TVA and a Knoxville-based environmental group squared off over a controversial plan to complete a partially completed reactor at the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant site in Hollywood, Ala. The nonprofit Southern Alliance for Clean Energy called the proposal to complete Bellefonte’s Unit 1 reactor one of the greatest gambles in TVA’s history and said the public utility’s board ought to reject it during an Aug. 18 meeting in Knoxville.

TVA says Standard & Poor’s downgrade no problem (Associated Press)

Standard & Poor’s has downgraded the Tennessee Valley Authority’s credit rating to AA-plus, but TVA says the downgrade is “not expected to have a material impact.” TVA Chief Financial Officer John Thomas said the utility’s top credit rating otherwise has been reaffirmed by Moody’s Investors Service Inc.

New HCA subsidiary heading for Cool Springs (Nashville Post/Lind)

Parallon Business Solutions, HCA’s newly-minted revenue cycle, work force management and supply chain subsidiary, will set up shop in Cool Springs later this year. The firm has signed a lease for 83,000 square feet in Eight Corporate Centre on Carothers Parkway.

Clarksville-Montgomery County School Board hears about new standards (L-C)

Updated, state-mandated performance measures for teachers and principals seem to come with a lot of unanswered questions for the leadership of the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System. It’s still early in the implementation of the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model, but those close to the effort told the Clarksville-Montgomery County School Board Tuesday evening they still have a lot to learn about TEAM.

Register pushes plan for balanced school year calendar (City Paper/Garrison)

Two weeks before a decisive school board vote, Director of Schools Jesse Register is heightening his pitch for adopting a new balanced school calendar, releasing a short video to board members Tuesday night to help make the case. “Time is a very important variable that we need to use better,” Register begins in a film he narrates.

Shelby County Schools board mulls merger options (Commercial Appeal/McMillin)

When the currently suburban-only Shelby County Schools board meets this afternoon in a specially called business meeting, it will be with a new label supplied by a federal judge: unconstitutional. How the SCS board, led by longtime chairman David Pickler, chooses to respond to Monday’s ruling by U.S. Dist. Court Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays could determine whether and for how long the legal fight might extend over merging Memphis City Schools with the county’s suburban schools.

Sumner commissioners tell school board more cuts needed (Tennessean/Easton)

Sumner County schools don’t have enough money to adequately meet the needs of the students, according to the school board. The board created a $194.5 million budget Saturday and sent it to the county’s budget committee, which rejected it.

Knox school board ready to ‘resolve’ Carter issue (News-Sentinel/McCoy)

Some still undecided on new building The vote on whether to build a new Carter Elementary School won’t be determined until tonight, but Knox County school board members agreed Tuesday that it is time to put the issue to bed. “I think we have enough information to make an informed decision, and whatever that is, I hope we can resolve it and move forward.

Bartlett, Collierville mayors say ruling clears way for separate districts (CA/Bailey)

Bartlett and Collierville leaders are moving forward with studies for public school districts in their suburbs, believing a federal judge’s ruling this week opened the door for such a move. But opponents of such districts contend that U.S. Dist. Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays didn’t address the matter in his decision Monday, leaving them as potential targets for legal challenges.

Mississippi: Education a priority for voters (Hattiesburg American)

If anyone doubts the power of education as a motivating force in elections, one has only to look at incumbent state Sen. Doug Davis of Hernando. Davis, chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, lost to a newcomer to politics, homebuilder Chris Massey of Nesbit. Although both are Republicans, the key distinction seems to be educational support.

Texas: Texas law seeks to keep college students on four-year path (Stateline)

A new Texas law will make Esin Saribudak’s college career harder to emulate. When she graduated from the University of Texas at Austin this past May, the Houston native had amassed more than 210 credit hours — roughly 90 more than required — in her five years there.

OPINION

Bill Gibbons: Obtaining voter ID needn’t be a burden (Commercial Appeal)

There has been a lot of debate recently over a new law that will require most Tennessee voters as of 2012 to show government-issued photo identification in order to cast a ballot at the polls. According to the new law, there are several forms of acceptable identification, including a Tennessee driver’s license with a photo, a passport, a photo ID from the federal government, a U.S. military photo ID or a gun permit card with a photo.

Gail Kerr: A fix for driver’s license lines? We’re still waiting (Tennessean)

There were 16 people marking time outside the door of the Centennial Boulevard driver’s license station at mid-morning Tuesday — a 30-minute wait just to cross the threshold. “This is the waiting line to wait,” said Daphne Davidson Houck, who brought her son to get his learner’s permit.

Guest columnist: Parties demand room on ballot (Tennessean)

Third parties have played a significant role in American economic, social and political development. The Free Soil Party challenged slavery in the 1830s. Laws ending child labor, improving safety in the workplace, and giving workers living wages and benefits came about as a result from the reforms of the Progressive Party era.

Guest columnist: GOP’s ‘half-fix’ keeps minor parties out (Tennessean)

When one considers the constant GOP drumbeat to do away with public education, it comes as no surprise that Tennessee’s Republican lawmakers are in dire need of a history lesson. In the mid-19th century, tension between the North and South over slavery was nearing a tipping point.

Guest columnist: Extended year could close achievement gap (Tennessean)

Geoffrey Canada, director of the Harlem Children’s Zone, explained it this way: If two trains head westward from Minneapolis at the same speed, one leaving at 9 a.m. and the other at noon, when will the two trains meet? The answer is obvious: They never will.

Editorial: Ruling in school merger lawsuit offers a clear path (C. Appeal)

City and suburban interests have a chance to put a divisive issue behind them. Parties to the lawsuit that challenged the consolidation of Memphis and Shelby County public schools could provide attorneys with years of work challenging various aspects of U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays’ ruling in the case.

Editorial: What’s up, Millington? (Commercial Appeal)

Millington citizens can’t be faulted for experiencing some confusion this week as the saga of their gambling mayor unfolds in unexpected directions. It’s not often that a “confidential informant” in a criminal investigation refutes claims he reportedly made to the police against a prominent political figure.

Editorial: Standard and Poors tell political truth (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Standard & Poor’s used flawed math and displayed plenty of chutzpah, but the credit rating agency told a political truth last week when it downgraded the United States’ bond rating: We have no confidence the U.S. government will avoid default in the future. And S&P gave the right prescription for the long-term budgetary ills — reduce spending and increase revenues.

Frank Munger: Too late to catch up on cleanup funding? (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

This is a tough fiscal climate, obviously, that could make it doubly difficult to get funding for environmental cleanup projects in Oak Ridge. Of all the U.S. Department of Energy programs in Oak Ridge, including science research and work on nuclear weapons, environmental management has been the most difficult to keep funded in recent years, and that’s not going to get any easier with the emphasis in Washington on deficit reduction.