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August 12 TN News Digest

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

U.S. Education Secretary Praises Tennessee’s Reform Efforts (TN Report)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan did everything Wednesday but come out and say Tennessee will get the waiver it seeks from the No Child Left Behind law, and he had glowing things to say about the state’s education reform efforts. “I just love what I see here,” Duncan said.

EPA grants Valero refinery a waiver to sell winter-grade gasoline (CA/Risher)

The government on Thursday temporarily loosened a restriction on gasoline sold in Shelby County to avoid a crimp in supplies because of the Valero refinery outage. The Environmental Protection Agency granted a waiver allowing Shelby County gas stations to sell winter-grade fuel until Aug. 31.

EPA grants fuel waiver after Memphis refinery shut (Reuters)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday allowed the temporary sale of winter-grade gasoline in a county near Memphis, Tennessee, to mitigate possible shortages of summer-grade motor fuel after a fire last week forced the shutdown of a refinery there. The EPA said the shutdown of Valero Energy Corp’s (VLO.N) 180,000-barrels-per-day refinery could result in a gasoline shortage, so a requirement that gasoline sold in Shelby County have a 7.8 Reid vapor pressure, or summer grade, was waived for 20 days to allow sales of 9.0 RVP gasoline, or winter grade.

Waiver sought to prevent gas shortage in Shelby (Associated Press)

Tennessee officials have asked the Environmental Protection Agency for a waiver to allow the sale of winter-grade gasoline in Shelby County after a fire at a refinery put the region at risk for a gasoline shortage. The Tennessee Fuel and Convenience Store Association said shortages at some retail outlets can be expected in the next few days, The Commercial Appeal reported (http://bit.ly/qeD9Wy).

Haslam wants new tax deal with Amazon (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sher)

Gov. Bill Haslam’s efforts to negotiate a “new relationship” with Amazon on state sales-tax collections is drawing a mixed response among Southeast Tennessee lawmakers but producing cheers from one of the Internet retailing giant’s biggest critics. “No one from the governor’s office has spoken to me concerning this issue at all,” said Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, who represents a portion of Bradley County where one of two Amazon distribution centers is being built.

Should Amazon.com Pay State Sales Taxes? (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)

Concern and confusion over Governor Bill Haslam’s statement that the state should collect taxes from Amazon.com. The governor has not supported the sales tax on the record in the past.

Retailers battle Amazon over taxes (Tennessean/Sisk)

Maggie Jetter can’t help overhearing the conversations in her little shop. Shoppers come in.

Rutherford woman to serve two years for TennCare fraud (Murfreesboro Post)

A Rutherford County woman charged with TennCare fraud has been ordered to serve two years in a Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) prison facility. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) today announced the conviction of Carman M. Reade, 22, of Murfreesboro.

Ethics Commission Keeps Complaint Numbers Under Wraps (TN Report)

The Tennessee Ethics Commission, which was created in the wake of a notorious political scandal, has yet to find anyone guilty of an ethics violation. The commission has considered five complaints and thrown them all out in the five years it has been in existence.

Child abuse hotline is likely to light up (Tennessean/Quinn)

Start of school brings reports from teachers In Tennessee, the start of school means a surge in reports of child abuse and neglect. Children who spent the summer shielded from outsiders are thrust back into school and under the watchful eyes of teachers, who are well-trained in noticing possibly dangerous patterns.

Tennesseans’ biographies accessible on Internet (Daily News Journal)

People around the world are familiar with Jack Daniel’s, but they may not know much about the man behind the brand name — the son of a wealthy Scottish immigrant who combined whiskey making techniques from his father’s homeland with Tennessee maple sugar to create a distinctive new type of libation. Nor do they know much about his nephew, a one-time Tennessee state senator who learned how to market that whiskey to the world.

Loudon County bid letting delayed for Tenn. 73 (Associated Press)

State transportation officials have delayed the bid letting for a construction project on Tenn. 73 in Loudon County. The scheduled October letting has been postponed so the main channel structure can be redesigned to accommodate recent changes to the Coast Guard navigational channel requirements for the site.

UT-Martin has record summer enrollment (Associated Press)

The University of Tennessee at Martin has had record undergraduate enrollment for summer sessions. The school reports the figure at 2,042, up 6.1 percent over 2010.

AG says new traffic camera law valid, even if operators lose money (NS/Humphrey)

A new state law could reduce the revenue of the companies operating traffic enforcement cameras, but that does not mean it would be an unconstitutional impairment of their contracts with cities and counties, according to state Attorney General Bob Cooper. Two state legislators said a question had been raised because some contracts were based on “an understanding that a minimum number of traffic citations would be based on right-turn-on-red violations, according to the opinion made public this week.

Lawmakers prefer to let school merger run its course (Commercial Appeal/Locker)

Despite renewed calls for more legislative intervention in the Memphis-Shelby County school merger, state lawmakers said they see little need for more action soon and instead want the merger-planning process already in state law to start. State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris said the 21 members of a transition planning commission should be appointed immediately and begin their work.

Frist Offers Republican Representation on White House Humanitarian Trip (WPLN)

One of Tennessee’s most prominent Republicans has been touring famine-stricken parts of the Horn of Africa with White House officials. Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist appears side-by-side with the Vice President’s wife – Jill Biden – in a video produced by the Democratic Administration.

Fight Harder, Voters Telling Congressmen (New York Times)

Taking in the highly unfavorable view most Americans have about Congress right now, it might be assumed that what voters seek is a lowered volume, thoughtful bipartisanship and legislative compromise. But in meetings with voters across the country this week, many members of Congress are seeing a mirror of the House floor.

TVA staff proposes upgrading Gallatin plant (Tennessean/Paine)

The TVA Board will be asked by staff on Thursday to approve completion of the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant as well as to upgrade pollution controls at the Gallatin coal-fired plant in Sumner County and the Allen plant in Shelby County. Approval of the air pollution equipment would ensure the continued life of the two plants that provide jobs as well as electricity.

Nuclear licensing slow down sought (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sohn)

Legal motions filed Thursday by 25 environmental and anti-nuclear groups claim the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is legally required to slow down the licensing and relicensing of U.S. nuclear reactors after NRC’s own review of the Fukushima disaster and resulting recommendations. Among the licenses at 18 plants mentioned in the filings are TVA’s Watts Bar Nuclear Plant’s nearly finished Unit 2 in Spring City, Tenn., and the unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Athens, Ala.

Med Mart Signs Local Lease (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

A Nashville-based health care company called SpecialtyCare has signed on to have a showroom in a proposed medical trade center, which is planned for the city’s old convention center. More than 500 hospitals outsource surgical support, neurological monitoring and other clinical services with the company.

Crews to begin transforming Pyramid into store Oct. 11, sources say (CA/Maki)

Construction that will turn The Pyramid into a Bass Pro Shops superstore will begin Oct. 11, with plans to open for business Aug. 1, 2013, according to sources familiar with the project. The city of Memphis and Bass Pro have reached a consensus on the above-ground and below-ground costs for stabilizing the vacant arena, a key hurdle in the nearly six years of negotiations about the Downtown site, the sources said.

Asphalt company eyes city (Columbia Daily Herald)

An asphalt production company is considering Mt. Pleasant as a future home for a facility. Terry Asphalt Materials Inc. received approval from the city planning commission on Aug. 2 to have 15.3 acres re-zoned from a M-1 zoning to an M-2 on property owned by Wilma Wade, off North Main Street near IB Tech. M-1 zoning allows for nonintrusive manufacturing uses which creates a light industrial district.

Comcast to provide net access, computers to low-income Memphians (CA/Dowd)

A new program being offered by Comcast will provide Internet access to low-income customers for a reduced monthly fee. The company’s “Internet Essentials” plan, which became available in Memphis a few weeks ago, will be formally launched Aug. 25.

Deadline Looms for School Board Plans (Memphis Daily News)

Attorneys on several sides of the schools consolidation lawsuit have until the end of Friday, Aug. 12, to submit their plans to Federal Judge Hardy Mays for a redrawn countywide school board that includes proportional representation for Memphians.

Question of Interim County School Board Dominates Meeting (Memphis Flyer)

Well, here’s an irony for you — or a scenario out of The Sixth Sense. On Wednesday the big issue in the matter of a Memphis City Schools-Shelby County Schools merger seemed to be whether and how soon the folks at MCS would respond to a request from the SCS board for information — all the information in MCS’ possession — about the workings of the current city school system.

After Merger Ruling, it’s a Matter of Bona Fides (Memphis Flyer)

Periodically, there are circumstances out in the real world that call to mind the boast of necromancer Owen Glendower in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part One: “I can call spirits from the very deep.” To which the skeptical Harry Hotspur responds, “Aye, but will they come.”

Focus on jobs (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Benton)

Marion County’s Jobs for Tennessee Graduates program was recognized nationally recently for notching high marks in five categories of performance in meeting program goals, officials said. The county earned the “Five of Five Award,” individually at South Pittsburg High School and on average among all three of its high schools.

Alabama: Bribery Trial in Alabama Yields No Convictions (Wall Street Journal)

An Alabama jury on Thursday declined to convict any of the nine defendants in a corruption trial involving gambling legislation that ensnared businessmen, lobbyists and current and former state lawmakers. State Sen. Quinton Ross and lobbyist Robert Geddie were acquitted on all counts.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin’s Walker Aims to Build Trust (Wall Street Journal)

After months of polarizing debate and unprecedented recall elections Tuesday, Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker said he wants to shift his agenda toward issues where the GOP and Democrats can find common ground. “I think what voters want is for us to work together,” Mr. Walker said in an interview Thursday.

OPINION

Debra Maggart: State Democrats, like Obama, just want your money (Tennessean)

While a recent report of a slight surplus in Tennessee is encouraging, this is not cause for celebration. The Republican General Assembly reduced spending by $1.2 billion this year, and Tennessee now carries the lowest debt of any state.

Mike Turner: Legislators have eye on coffers (Tennessean)

Return money to working families who need it most For the past several months, Tennessee has brought in more money in revenues than was anticipated in the budget passed this year by the General Assembly. This is a result of a 4 percent rise in tax collections for fiscal year 2011.

Greg Johnson: Lowering standards is no path to victory (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Imagine: It’s Sept. 16. Coach Derek Dooley sits down with the University of Tennessee’s starting quarterback on the eve of the big game with Florida. “Dadgumit, you had three interceptions against Montana, and Cincinnati picked you four times,” Dooley says.

Editorial: The downside of division (Commercial Appeal)

A feasibility study would be helpful for suburban Shelby County communities that are deciding whether to start separate public school districts. But even without running the numbers, it’s a sure bet that taxes would rise significantly.

Free-Press Editorial: Rep. Fleischmann on debt (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Chattanooga’s Congressman Chuck Fleischmann had a serious message for everyone Thursday when he spoke at the Chattanooga Rotary Club. He warned about the enormous spending that Congress approves year after year.

Editorial: County redistricting process must ensure everyone gets heard (J. Sun)

The Madison County Redistricting Committee has begun the process of reapportioning the county’s 25 voting districts and Jackson-Madison County Board of Education’s nine voting districts. One issue on the table is for those involved in redistricting to pay close attention to communities and even neighborhoods to prevent splitting their representation.

Editorial: New burdens for states (Commercial Appeal)

Since the congressional super committee on cutting the deficit hasn’t held its first meeting yet it may be premature to call it a failure, but the prospects for success are questionable. Few if any members named to the committee can be counted on to stray from their parties’ basic positions: no tax increases for the Republicans, no cuts in Social Security or Medicare for the Democrats.

Editorial: A Scalpel, Not an Ax, for Medicaid (New York Times)

Many states are struggling to balance their budgets by curbing spending on Medicaid, a joint state-federal program that provides health insurance for the poor and disabled. They have little choice because Medicaid is one of their biggest, fastest-growing expenses.

 

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