August 14 TN News Digest

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

‘No Child’ waivers drawing criticism (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Hardy)

Virtually no one seems to favor the current No Child Left Behind law, yet not everyone seems willing to throw it out entirely. National opposition has surfaced following this month’s announcement from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that some states will receive waivers from the current law and its punitive sanctions.

STEM school classes start on Monday at former Knoxville train station (NS/McCoy)

Old L&N is home for new learning plan During the summer, Becky Ashe visited the former L&N train station every other week to witness the building’s transformation into the Knox County STEM Academy, which opens for class Monday. “We had lots of people who said you’ll never make it on time.

Haslam ‘Not Close’ to Picking GOP Presidential Favorite (Missouri News Horizon)

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday he has not decided whom to support in the Republican field for president and isn’t inclined to tell his family or members of his administration whom to support either. Haslam said roughly half the GOP candidates have called him to say they would like his help.

Tenn. Transportation Commissioner embarks on ‘Projects Tour’ (State Gazette)

Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer stopped at the Lannom Center on Tuesday morning as part of his statewide “Summer Projects Tour”. The commissioner is visiting all four regions in the state on his summer tour with elected officials and transportation officials to view transportation projects currently under way as well as proposed projects under the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

Long-awaited bypass to open Wednesday (Times-Gazette)

After a wait of over 20 years, ribbons will be cut Wednesday to mark the official opening of the Shelbyville bypass. Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer will be on hand with local officials at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the intersection of the bypass, also known as State Route 437, with U.S. 231 North.

DCS stops placements at largest rehab facility (Associated Press)

The Department of Children’s Services has stopped placing children at Tennessee’s largest drug rehabilitation facility. DCS notified New Life Lodge of the decision on July 28. That was three days after The Tennessean published the results of an investigation that uncovered the deaths of two adult patients, complaints about care and reduced oversight by the state.

Concern grows over Amazon debate (Cleveland Daily Banner)

Local elected officials were surprised and concerned by recent comments from Gov. Bill Haslam about his administration now negotiating with Amazon.com about collecting sales taxes. The governor said Friday lawmakers should not force Amazon to collect Tennessee sales taxes without a prior agreement.

Fleischmann plans meeting with Haslam, state leaders on Amazon (Nooga)

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said Friday that he has not yet had time to sit down with state leaders and discuss the Amazon sales tax issue. Jordan Powell, press secretary for Fleischmann, who represents Tennessee’s 3rd District, said that the congressman was planning to address the issue with both Gov. Bill Haslam and other state leaders later this month.

Ruling may force Supreme Court to decide on health care mandate (AP/Bluestein)

Mandate struck down on appeal A federal appeals panel’s ruling striking down the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul moves the question of whether Americans can be required to buy health insurance a step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court. A divided three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that Congress overstepped its authority when lawmakers passed the so-called individual mandate, the first such decision by a federal appeals court.

Starved State Budgets Inspire New Look at Web Gambling (New York Times)

The District of Columbia is not thrilled that its residents are traveling to Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to gamble in casinos. Starved for cash, like states across the country, the district wants some of the millions in revenue that gambling generates each year.

New Y-12 contract could bring big changes to security (News-Sentinel/Munger)

WSI official says Y-12 contract proposal would hurt security; union chief says plan has good, bad points The government’s plan to consolidate management of Y-12 with another nuclear weapons plant in Texas could have a big impact on security operations in Oak Ridge. Under the proposed plan by the National Nuclear Security Administration, the security services — and the hundreds of security police officers — would become part of the overall contract for managing and operating the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge and the Pantex warhead assembly/disassembly plant near Amarillo, Texas.

Will millions in incentives pay off in Middle TN? (Tennessean/Marsteller)

Counties take big risks, hopes for big return With jobless rates above 9 percent in much of Middle Tennessee, local governments are turning more often to tax incentives and other perks to attract new jobs, reigniting a fierce debate over how much cities and counties should pay for progress. It’s not just a philosophical argument.

How government makes deals – and what they cost (Tennessean/Marsteller)

The Metro government has become more aggressive in making deals laced with various levels of incentives, putting together at least six projects in the past two years. The largest one, valued at a minimum of $128 million in today’s dollars, is for the 800-room Omni Hotel being built next to the Music City Center convention complex south of Broadway.

Vital signs strong for MTMC finances (Daily News Journal)

Nonprofit filing touts healthy diagnosis, but preventive measures prescribed Middle Tennessee Medical Center has passed its annual financial health checkup. But, like many of the patients it serves, maintaining that vitality requires a prescription regimen.

New riverboat service to boost Memphis economy (Associated Press)

The return of riverboat passenger service to Memphis is expected to provide not only additional entertainment, but a boost to the city’s struggling economy. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, announced last week that a deal had been finalized to bring the refurbished, 436-passenger American Queen steamboat back to the Mississippi River.

Middle Tennessee schools help parents peek at report cards (Tennessean/Hubbard)

Metro expands Web portal tracking students’ progress Toyeka Hunter spends her workdays zipping around town in a UPS truck. But this year, in between stops, she’ll grab her Droid smartphone and check her daughters’ attendance, assignments and real-time grades.

Weaving answers to Memphis-Shelby County schools merger (CA/McMillin)

The comprehensive order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Samuel ‘Hardy’ Mays last week resolves, for now, some of the questions surrounding city-county school consolidation. The 146-page order sorted out the tangle of conflicting legal statutes that opposing parties in the schools lawsuit were citing to advocate their preferred path toward the impending merger of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools.

Assaults on Memphis-area teachers not uncommon, records show (CA/Goetz)

More than 230 students arrested from Jan. 2009 to May 2011 for attacks on school leaders The fatal stabbing of a private-school principal last week shined an intense light on the potential danger in Memphis-area classrooms once regarded as safe havens. And while the death of Memphis Junior Academy’s Suzette York, 49, represents a tiny statistical outlier, an investigation by The Commercial Appeal reveals numerous instances in which teachers and administrators have been hurt in confrontations with students.

Georgia: Georgia to request ‘No Child’ waiver (Associated Press)

After a decade of leaning on standardized test scores to determine whether schools are meeting federal benchmarks, Georgia soon may be able to overhaul how it measures success in public education. State education officials plan to apply next month for a waiver from federal No Child Left Behind requirements, joining a growing number of states looking for relief from the widely criticized education law.

OPINION

Arne Duncan: Tennessee is rising to tough educational challenges (Tennessean)

On a visit to Nashville this past week, I was repeatedly confronted by a very basic and important fact: that achieving our common goal of strengthening the U.S. economy requires strong leaders and educators working together to collaborate in the best interests of children. In the 21st-century economy, the countries that win the education race will win the future.

Tom Humphrey: State a recipient of federal largesse (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

There seems to be a disconnect this summer between the great wailing and gnashing of teeth over federal deficit spending and the promotion and celebration of federal spending on the state level. Without going into the amply covered national deficit debacle, here’s a sampling of some recent state-level stuff.

Gail Kerr: Cops, not legislature, should control confiscated guns (Tennessean)

This is not a gun rights issue. It’s about the autonomy of local law enforcement to make the best decisions possible for their communities. The Tennessee General Assembly this year passed a law that forbids local cop shops and sheriffs from destroying firearms confiscated after a crime was committed.

Steve Barrett: Knoxville lawmaker, UT store create big Disappoint Mint (TFP)

Did you hear the one about the lawmaker who scolded the University of Tennessee bookstore about some breath mints because they poked fun at President Obama? Don’t wait for a punch line; this actually happened.

Scott McNutt: Tennessee politicians covet ‘Endorsemints’ (News-Sentinel)

When state Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Embarrassmint, made his improvident complaint to the University of Tennessee bookstore management regarding its sale of Disappointmints candies poking harmless fun at President Barack Obama, he had no idea he was starting a movement. But as word spread of Armstrong’s rash act, sales of the candy skyrocketed, and Armstrong’s name was blared through media outlets across the nation, again focusing an unflattering spotlight on Tennessee.

Editorial: High jobless rate labels Memphis area (Commercial Appeal)

High unemployment in the Memphis metro area is likely to persist unless communities work together to find a cure. The nation’s high unemployment rate probably is the most persistently debilitating quality-of-life issue that has emerged from the recession of 2008.

Otis L. Sanford: Abandonment is 40-year-old schools lesson (Commercial Appeal)

Last week’s school consolidation ruling by U.S. Dist. Judge Samuel Mays will go down as the most monumental decision impacting public education in Shelby County in 40 years. It rivals — but does not surpass — the landmark ruling by federal Judge Robert M. McRae Jr., who in 1972 ordered busing of students in Memphis City Schools to achieve desegregation.

Free-Press Editorial: For efficient hospital security (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

The use of tax dollars by any organization makes careful oversight of its financial decisions extremely important. Taxpayers have a right to expect that their money will be used as efficiently as possible.

Editorial: Note to Congress: Move to center on debt – soon (Tennessean)

While members of Congress enjoy their long vacation, they should reflect on the actual meaning of the words “talk,” “listen,” “compromise” — and “service.” Americans heard plenty of talk from the lawmakers and President Obama over the summer as they postured and pointed fingers over their sorry excuse for a debt agreement, but the lawmakers themselves did not listen, either to their constituents or to each other.

Jim Cooper: ‘Super-committee’ isn’t best hope; Americans are (Tennessean)

Don’t expect the new congressional “super-committee” to suddenly act like superheroes and save the American economy. The 12 Democrats and Republicans on the committee don’t need spandex; they need courage.

Guest columnist: Stick to basic economics to reach agreement (Tennessean)

If Washington truly wants to find a compromise on the debt and deficit, policymakers must agree on two simple principles — rules that any household understands. No. 1, the government cannot spend more money than it brings in. No. 2, the government cannot spend money it doesn’t already have — it must run in the black.

Free-Press Editorial: U.S. economy stumbling (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

There is just no getting around it: Our nation’s economy is in serious peril. Even the optimists among us cannot find much good news in the recent host of dismal economic figures. Here are just a few of them: * In June, for the first time in almost two years, consumer spending actually dropped.

Editorial: A Growing Gloom for States and Cities (New York Times)

States and cities had already endured a harrowing three-year financial slide when the debt-ceiling crisis darkened their outlooks even further. In the space of just a few weeks, the Republican-led standoff on spending and taxes brought them a triple dose of bad news: a budget deal that will probably lead to a significant reduction in federal aid; a bond downgrade that could eventually trickle down to the local and state level, making borrowing more expensive; and a stock market plunge that is bleeding state employee pension funds.