August 13 TN News Digest

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

Tennessee home to nation’s No. 1 logistics hub (Nashville Business Journal)

Tennessee is home to the nation’s No. 1 distribution hub, as Business Facilities magazine has named Memphis as the top logistics, distribution and shipping hub in the country for 2011. “Memphis has an unsurpassed combination of air, rail, land and water shipping possibilities,” Business Facilities Editor-in-Chief Jack Rogers said in a statement.

Haslam: Don’t force Amazon sales tax without deal (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Gov. Bill Haslam doesn’t want lawmakers to require Amazon.com to collect Tennessee sales taxes unless the online retailer agrees first. The Republican governor told reporters in Nashville on Friday that his administration is in negotiations with Amazon on a scheme to have the company expand while also collecting sales taxes in the future.

Haslam wants voluntary Amazon tax collections (Times Free-Press/Sher)

Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday he favors his approach of getting Amazon to collect state sales taxes voluntarily at some point instead of seeing state lawmakers try to force the Internet retailing giant to do so. “I certainly wouldn’t like to see us do that given the commitments we’ve made to Amazon in the past,” Haslam said in his fullest comments on discussions his administration is having with the company.

Governor and Amazon.Com Talk About Eventually Collecting Sales Tax (WDEF-TV)

The question of whether Amazon.Com should collect a sales tax in Tennessee is back at the top of the page in Nashville After declarations of support from Gov. Bill Haslam and most of the legislature in May, new negotiations are apparently underway behind the scenes. REP. GERALD MCCORMICK, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER “I think the state in return..doesn’t want to give them a blank check….they want them to consider at some point collecting the sales tax.”

Tenn. officials say state pension plan strong (Associated Press/Johnson)

Tennessee financial officials say they’re confident the state’s pension plan is in good long-term shape despite the recent Wall Street sell-off and the likelihood of continued stock market volatility. The financial storm is causing uneasiness among many state fund managers still trying to recover from steep losses during the recession.

DCS won’t place kids at troubled New Life Lodge rehab (Tennessean/Rau)

The Department of Children’s Services has stopped placing children in state care at Tennessee’s largest drug rehabilitation facility, which last year had two adult patients die within a six-week period. Citing concerns for the well-being of children in its care, DCS notified New Life Lodge of the decision on July 28.

UTC offers information on construction program (Times Free-Press/Trevizo)

The construction industry has taken a hit during the economic recession, but that hasn’t lessened the demand for UTC’s construction management program. “This economic downturn that we are in is not going to last forever, and our industry needs to be prepared to do the infrastructure and our facilities for our future generations, and that’s what we are preparing for right now,” said Roger Tuder, president and chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee.

UT’s freshman class has highest ACT scores in school’s history (CA/Locker)

The University of Tennessee’s entering freshman class has the highest average ACT score in the Knoxville campus’ history, continuing a trend that accelerated when lottery-funded scholarships began. The 4,200 freshmen arriving in Knoxville this weekend have an average ACT of 26.7, up from last year’s 26.4, UT said Friday.

Legislators question legality of gov. cutting a deal with Amazon (NS/Humphrey)

Legislators question legality of Amazon tax deal While Gov. Bill Haslam says he does not want to force Amazon.com to collect Tennessee sales taxes without the Internet giant’s agreement, two key state legislators are asking the attorney general to declare that present state law blocks the governor’s wishes. In a letter to Attorney General Bob Cooper, the chairmen of the House and Senate Finance Committees declare that current state tax statutes “appear to be clear and unambiguous” in requiring retailers based outside the state to collect taxes on sales to Tennessee consumers under circumstances facing Amazon.

Bond ratings loom over leaders (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Haman, Hightower)

Chattanooga and Hamilton County are facing possible changes to their bond ratings as uncertainty in the markets leaves local government leaders questioning what will happen next. Hamilton County’s AAA bond rating with all three major ratings agencies is higher than the federal government’s — at least for now.

Congress, with a push from citizens, can solve debt crisis, Blackburn says (L-C)

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, R-7th District, says with the help of motivated American citizens, Congress can find solutions to the country’s spending and debt problems. Blackburn attended two change of command ceremonies at Fort Campbell Friday and stopped downtown for a question-and-answer session with The Leaf-Chronicle’s editorial board.

Health ruling sets stage for bigger fight (Tribune News)

A federal appeals court struck down a pillar of President Barack Obama’s national health-care law, ruling that Congress does not have the power to require all Americans to buy health insurance and setting the stage for a Supreme Court decision ahead of the 2012 elections. The 2-1 decision is a victory for Republican leaders in 26 states who had challenged the law last year, testing whether the signature accomplishment of Obama’s presidency will stand.

Health Overhaul Is Dealt Setback (Wall Street Journal)

A U.S. appeals court in Atlanta handed the Obama administration its biggest defeat to date in the battle over the health-care overhaul passed last year, ruling the law’s mandate on Americans to carry health insurance was unconstitutional. The 2-1 ruling directly conflicts with another appellate ruling in June, making it a near certainty that the Supreme Court will eventually step in and provide the final word.

Health Law Is Dealt Blow by a Court on Mandate (New York Times)

The provision in President Obama’s health care law requiring Americans to buy health insurance or face tax penalties was ruled unconstitutional on Friday by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta. It was the first appellate review to find the provision unconstitutional — a previous federal appeals court upheld the law — and some lawyers said that the decision made it more likely that the fate of the health care law would ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

Deal in Place for Inspecting Foreign Drugs (New York Times)

More than 80 percent of the active ingredients for drugs sold in the United States are made abroad, mostly in a shadowy network of facilities in China and India that are rarely visited by government inspectors, who sometimes cannot even find the plants. But after decades of failed attempts, the federal government and the generic drug industry have reached an agreement that is almost certain to pass Congress and that will lead to routine inspections of these overseas plants, potentially transforming the enormous global medicine trade.

Postal Service proposal to break contracts blasted by unions (Washington Post)

Unions reacted furiously Friday to a proposal by the Postal Service to lay off 120,000 workers by breaking labor contracts and to shift workers out of the federal employee health and retirement plans into cheaper alternatives. Labor experts and other unions also sounded the alarm that any move by Congress to break postal contracts would further wound an already ailing labor movement, much as President Ronald Reagan’s firing of striking air traffic controllers did in 1981.

TVA: Rate increases could be considered (Associated Press)

A rate increase for Tennessee Valley Authority customers may be in the works when the utility’s board meets Thursday in Knoxville. A spokesman for the utility said details about rates will have to wait until the Thursday discussion of next year’s budget.

TVA reports net loss of $240 million in 3Q (Memphis Business Journal)

Refueling outages at nuclear plants, devastating storms and lower electricity demand resulted in a $240 million loss for the Tennessee Valley Authority in the third quarter. TVA reported a net loss of $240 million on $2.7 billion in revenue, compared with net income of $199 million on $2.6 billion in revenue for the third quarter a year ago.

April Storms Hit TVA Balance Sheet (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Deadly tornadoes that swept across the south in late April are now taking a financial toll on the country’s largest public utility. The Tennessee Valley Authority just posted a $240 million loss.

Tux Repair Company to Start Manufacturing in Tennessee (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

A Tennessee company plans to start manufacturing garments domestically, countering what has been a 15-year trend of moving production out of the country. Michael Priest has a company that repairs rental tuxedos near Chattanooga.

Extreme weather likely to send food prices up (New York Times)

Expect to pay more for pasta, meat, vegetable oil and many other consumer products in coming months. New government reports are forecasting that the brutal heat wave, combined with the drought and flooding that have affected much of the nation, has taken a significant toll on this year’s corn, soybean and wheat crops.

Merger proposals lacking accord; indicate order may be appealed (CA/McMillin)

Proposals submitted Friday for the creation of a new county school board differed on issues of timing and urgency, and the federal judge overseeing the schools merger lawsuit received the first official indication that the 146-page order issued Monday may be appealed. U.S. Dist. Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays Jr. had directed all parties involved in the lawsuit to offer “a remedy” for what he determined were “unconstitutional” voting districts for the currently all-suburban Shelby County Board of Education.

Countywide School Board Plans Make Different Recommendations to Court (MDN)

Recommendations for the creation of a new countywide school board began coming in late Friday, Aug. 12, to the Federal Court clerk’s office. The Memphis City School board recommends a seven district countywide school board with an election of that board to be held no later than March 2012.

Schools Consolidation: Mays Issues Ruling (Memphis Daily News)

The Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools systems will be consolidated starting with the 2013-2014 school year. “Here the controversy between the parties is a legal dispute, not a factual dispute,” Federal Judge Hardy Mays wrote in the detailed and lengthy ruling released Aug. 8.

With Decision Made, Time to Start Working (Memphis Daily News)

There is still much work to be done and a few very important unresolved issues in the rapidly forming reality of schools consolidation. Federal Judge Hardy Mays has to determine what a new countywide school board should look like and – just as important – when that new countywide school board should be in place to begin making essential decisions.

Principals turn over at record pace as Metro starts school (City Paper/Garrison)

Rising freshmen and new students aren’t the only ones walking into unfamiliar territory as Metro schools began their first full week Thursday. In what longtime educators are observing as unusually high (perhaps record) turnover, principals at 33 schools across the county — from Apollo Middle School in Antioch, to Glencliff High School off Nolensville Pike, to Inglewood Elementary School in East Nashville — have arrived there just this year.

Displaced, ‘surplus’ MCS teachers accept jobs outside of specialty (CA/Roberts)

Memphis City Schools principals have been told to fill classroom vacancies from a pool of displaced teachers — rather than new hires — as the district tries to cut overstaffing by the end of the month. “This should have been done months ago,” said Keith Williams, president of the Memphis Education Association.

Lake County suspects arrested during Operation Cookout (State Gazette)

On Thursday, Lake County Sheriff Bryan Avery announced the arrest of six suspects on charges including possession of Schedule II drug, initiation of a process intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine, promotion of methamphetamine manufacture, possession of drug paraphernalia, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect or endangerment.

One-pot meth lab blows up on Clarksville’s MLK Parkway, police say (L-C)

A Tennessee Ridge man was seriously injured when a one-pot meth lab exploded in a moving car Thursday night. At 7:10 p.m., Clarksville Police officers were dispatched to a vehicle fire on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. Occupants from the car were seen running from the scene, according to a news release from Officer Jim Knoll, Clarksville Police spokesman.

OPINION

Clay Bennett Political Cartoon: “Proud Parent” (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Editorial: Positive signs for a merger (Commercial Appeal)

Proponents of consolidation should be encouraged by the words of the state’s leadership. Advocates of Memphis-Shelby County school consolidation for nearly a year have been fending off efforts to prevent change in the local public education system.

Guest columnist: Assertions against TEA fall short of facts (Commercial Appeal)

In his Aug. 6 guest column in this newspaper, Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey wrote that the Tennessee Education Association had unfairly attacked the education “reforms” that he and his fellow Republican legislators enacted during the last legislative session. He claims that the TEA has “opposed every innovation in education reform since Lamar Alexander was governor.”

Free-Press Editorial: Sen. Corker on ‘tough decisions’ (Times Free-Press)

In a free market, private businesses succeed or fail based on their ability to provide goods and services at prices that consumers are willing to pay. That rewards companies that meet consumer demand and encourages competitors to find ways to provide goods and services more efficiently, to attract customers.