August 17 TN News Digest

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

Feds provide $29.7M for Haslam plan (Nashville Business Journal)

Tennessee has received $29.7 million in federal funding that will fuel a segment of Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to spur business investment in the state. The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the money today, as part of the State Small Business Credit Initiative created by the U.S. Congress last year with passage of the Small Business Jobs Act.

Independent Bank, State of Tenn. Get Money for Small Biz Lending (M. Daily News)

Small businesses in Memphis – as well as across Tennessee – stand to benefit from a pair of announcements unveiled Tuesday regarding targeted federal investment in the area. First, Independent Bank is getting almost $35 million to make available as loans to businesses with sales of up to $50 million, for agricultural loans and for owner-occupied real estate.

Knox County woman charged with TennCare fraud (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

A Knox County woman is charged with TennCare fraud in an indictment accusing her of lying to the state to get TennCare health care insurance benefits. The Office of Inspector General today announced the arrest of Lori N. Sharp, also known as Lori Nicole Lister, 34, of Knoxville.

Woman charged second time with TennCare fraud (Cookeville Herald Citizen)

A Coffee County woman is charged — for a second time — with TennCare fraud. The Office of Inspector General recently announced the arrest of Vickie Mae Zahn Collins, 38, of Manchester.

Report shows Tenn. improving in child welfare (Associated Press)

A national report shows Tennessee is taking better care of its children. The report released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Tennessee 39th in child well-being.

Report: Tennessee shows gains in some areas of child well-being (NS/Nelson)

When it comes to our children’s well-being, we’re getting better. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, in its National Kids Count Data Book released today, ranked Tennessee 39th in the nation.

State encourages public input on school textbooks for 2012-13 (City Paper)

Tennessee education officials said Tuesday they are seeking public input on textbooks proposed for the 2012-13 school year. The books involve the following subjects: visual arts, music, theater arts, dance, spelling, literature, driver education, computer science, health sciences education, business technology, marketing education, technology engineering, education and trade/industrial education.

Chattanooga State piloting national effort to improve math learning (TFP/Trevizo)

Chattanooga State Community College is leading a national project to increase student success in developmental math courses with help from a grant. Nearly 8 out of 10 community college freshmen nationwide and nearly half of university freshmen require remedial work because they aren’t ready for college-level work, according to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

TBI investigates Hawkins Co. judge vote (Times News)

Hawkins County Commissioner Darrell Gilliam told the Times-News Tuesday he was offered a bribe by a third party to change his vote from Buddy Baird to Jay Taylor prior to the County Commission’s July 25 meeting to appoint a new sessions judge. Several Hawkins County commissioners confirmed Tuesday that they have been interviewed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation regarding allegations of malfeasance during the sessions judge appointment process.

TDOT plans demolition of Clarksville’s Lynnwood Tarpley Bridge (Leaf Chronicle)

1931 bridge over Red River coming down Tuesday night The 1931 Lynnwood Tarpley Bridge is scheduled to come down next week, marking the beginning of the end of a reconstruction project that began over a year ago. The Tennessee Department of Transportation plans to demolish the College Street bridge, which spans the Red River, around 10 p.m. Tuesday night, according to a TDOT news release.

McNally Pleased with Haslam’s Handling of Amazon Sales Tax Issues (TN Report)

Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, who has worked to require Amazon.com to collect sales taxes on its online sales, said Monday he endorses Gov. Bill Haslam’s efforts to resolve the issue, calling it a potential “win-win” solution for the state. McNally also said he appreciates efforts in the Haslam administration to set new guidelines on the handling of private letter rulings — or written agreements specific to the taxpayer — which might make the process more transparent yet still protect a taxpayer’s confidentiality.

Anderson commissioners OK $24.75M in bonds for schools, jail (N-S/Fowler)

Anderson County commissioners have approved a series of general obligation bond issues to fund projects ranging from a major expansion of its overcrowded jail to a new alternative school. A property tax increase approved by commissioners last month will be used to pay off those long-term debt issues totaling $24.75 million.

Memphis City Council OKs $215 million to finance Pyramid-Bass Pro deal (CA/Maki)

The Memphis City Council has approved a $215 million financing package to turn The Pyramid into a Bass Pro Shops destination store and to invest in full ownership of the neighboring Memphis Cook Convention Center. The council voted 12-0 Tuesday in favor of the measure with little discussion.

County to revisit outsourcing food at East Memphis prison (C. Appeal/Connolly)

Thirty-one county jobs and hundreds of thousands of tax dollars are at stake as the Shelby County Commission deliberates today on a proposal to give a $3.2 million contract to food service giant Aramark to prepare meals at the Shelby County Division of Corrections. Proposals to outsource food services at the East Memphis prison came before the County Commission in August 2008 and June 2009 and failed in the face of employee opposition.

Most Benton Co. agencies got budget cuts (Jackson Sun)

The Benton County Commission passed a 2011-12 fiscal year budget with a broad range of cuts in an a four-hour county commission meeting Monday night. The budget included an unchanged property tax rate at $2.94, a new requirement for courthouse employees to contribute about 18 percent of their health insurance premiums and a $39,635 drop in the county’s funding for the Benton County Public Library.

Dyer County Commission to vote on reapportionment committee in September (SG)

In an effort to follow state guidelines, the Dyer County Commission will vote in its upcoming September meeting on who will officially make up the county’s reapportionment (redistricting) committee. Dyer County Mayor Richard Hill appointed the current committee this year after being informed by Dyer County Election Administrator Jane Heathcott that one needed to be established for the county’s redistricting.

Corker: Federal regs on online taxes 3-4 years off (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Tuesday that could be three or four years before Congress passes national guidelines on tax collections by online retailers like Amazon.com. Corker told reporters after a speech to the Smith County Chamber of Commerce that he understands the complaints of local retailers.

Corker says Internet sales tax collections ‘will be resolved’ (Times Free-Press/Sher)

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Tuesday it may take years before Congress enacts legislation letting states collect sales taxes to items sold over the Internet. Corker, R-Tenn., said he realizes the sales tax issue “is a problem” not only for state and local governments but for traditional retailers.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker sees future action on Web tax (Commercial Appeal/Locker)

Understands both sides of the issue Gov. Bill Haslam wants Congress to pave the way for states to collect more sales taxes on products sold over the Internet, but U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Tuesday that congressional action on the issue is probably three or four years away. Corker, R-Tenn., said he understands both sides of the issue.

Tea party protesters slam Diane Black for debt vote (Gannett)

About 50 tea party activists chanted “Bye, Bye Black” on Tuesday to show their frustration over U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s recent vote to raise the federal debt ceiling. A few dozen of those attending the rally on the sidewalk in front of Black’s office in Murfreesboro also held 21 signs together to tell the Gallatin Republican why they’re upset with her.

Herron challenges campaign ruling (Commercial Appeal/Sullivan)

The Herron for Congress committee has sued the Federal Election Commission for what it calls its “arbitrary” and “capricious” abuse of its discretion in dismissing a complaint against U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher’s committee concerning a campaign loan. The lawsuit, filed in federal district court here, says the commission’s staff failed to establish that the $250,000 bank loan met election law requirements that it be collateralized to give the bank a security interest that assured repayment.

Herron sues the FEC over Fincher decision (Gannett/Bewley)

The Federal Election Commission may have dismissed its investigation into Rep. Stephen Fincher’s misreported campaign loan, but the case isn’t closed for Fincher’s erstwhile opponent, state Sen. Roy Herron. Herron is suing the FEC, arguing that the commission’s June decision to dismiss the case against Fincher was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to the law,” according to a complaint filed Friday in federal district court in Washington.

Transportation deadlock keeps states in suspense (Stateline)

When federal lawmakers return to Capitol Hill next month, one of their first assignments will be the normally routine task of finding money for better roads and rails. But given Congress’ recent track record of letting seemingly mundane matters build to a crisis, transportation experts are keeping a wary eye on Washington.

Health-Plan Buyers Get a Look Under the Hood (Wall Street Journal)

Consumers shopping for health insurance will soon get a peek at a new standard form—akin to the nutrition label on food products—that will lay out the details of each policy, from deductibles to how much it might cost to have a baby. Federal regulators are expected to unveil the proposed summary form, part of the health-care overhaul law, on Wednesday, and the requirement is supposed to take effect next March.

TVA bans zombies from its meeting (Associated Press/Poovey)

The Tennessee Valley Authority has a message for opponents of it finishing a long-shuttered, 37-year-old nuclear plant in northeast Alabama: No costumes. A month after zombie-costumed protesters paraded in Chattanooga to oppose TVA reviving what they described as a “corpse of a power plant,” the nation’s largest public utility has posted a new ban on costumes at its board meeting Thursday.

IPayment to leave Nashville (Tennessean/Allyn)

Credit card processing company iPayment said this week that it will move its corporate headquarters to New York City from Nashville to be closer to its customer base and investors Five employees work at the company’s Burton Hills complex near Hillsboro Pike. The company has more than 300 call center employees in the San Francisco area.

Cookeville hospital updating pediatrics unit (Associated Press)

Five brightly painted, colorfully coded rooms are now ready to welcome pediatric patients at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. For the first time in some 20 years, the hospital has a dedicated pediatrics unit with a more permanent home.

TN students score near bottom on ACTs (Tennessean/Hall)

Tennessee continues to linger near the bottom of the U.S. in ACT scores, which hovered between 19 and 20 points in all four subject areas for a second year. Its composite score for 2011 graduates was 19.5, compared with 21.1 for the nation.

Memphis City Schools cooperating with Shelby County Schools (CA/Roberts)

Memphis City Schools is sending reams of information on its inner workings to Shelby County Schools, hoping to start the arduous process of sorting out best practices, purchases and processes while the fine points of consolidation wind through court. The city school board’s attorney is drafting a statement saying how quickly and earnestly the board wants to cooperate with SCS, giving it all the information the city board deems necessary to begin the process.

Newcomers Over Veteran Teachers? MCS Says Not True (WREG-TV Memphis)

Memphis teachers argue more senior employees of the district are being pushed aside in favor of those with no experience. But the school board says it’s not true.

Metro to survey parents on calendar (Tennessean/Hubbard)

Metro Nashville Public School parents can expect an automated phone call Thursday night, asking their opinion of a 2012-13 school calendar that would start classes in late July. That calendar would include a week of either remediation for at-risk students or enrichment for high achievers in October and another in March.

Suburbs Weigh School Options (Memphis Daily News)

Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy is recommending the city hire a consulting firm to research the creation of a municipal school district. But in a written statement that is her first response to last week’s ruling in the federal court schools consolidation lawsuit, Goldsworthy said the exploration of a Germantown school district is one of several options the suburban city is weighing, including being part of a consolidated Shelby County school system.

Schools Restore Fresh Cooking to the Cafeteria (New York Times)

The idea of making school lunches better and healthier has gathered steam in many parts of the nation in recent years, but not equally for every child. Schools with money and involved parents concerned about obesity and nutrition charged ahead, while poor and struggling districts, overwhelmed by hard times, mostly did not.

OPINION 

Editorial: Better DMV service would put better face on state government (J. Sun)

For many Tennesseans, their primary interaction with state government takes place at the local driver’s license bureau. Anyone who has been to one already knows the rest of the story: long waits, impersonal service, confusing paperwork, inconvenient hours of operation and, in some counties, lack of convenient office locations.

Guest columnist: UT places itself on austere but solid ground (Tennessean)

Efficiency steps will keep system competitive For the past two years, a lot has been said about “the cliff” — the loss of stimulus funds for higher education. Since July 1, we at the University of Tennessee have stood at the bottom of that cliff, and I am pleased to report we are basically OK.

Editorial: Safety first in the schools (Commercial Appeal)

Teachers must feel confident that they can report any student who poses a threat to their safety. The strange and tragic death last week of private-school principal Suzette York provided a moment of extraordinary sadness for the community.

Guest columnist: Ketron’s defense of Voter ID laughable (Daily News Journal)

As I read state Sen. Bill Ketron’s defense of the Voter ID law published in The DNJ on Aug. 3, I could not help but think my state senator must have blinders on or just be purposefully ignorant to the facts. This law claims to “solve” an insignificant problem while actually exacerbating a crisis in our electoral system.

Frank Munger: Time running short on USEC’s loan quest (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Deadline after deadline seems to pass on USEC’s application for a $2 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy, yet the company continues to tread water and keep alive its plans for a new uranium-enrichment plant in Ohio. The manufacturing of machines for the American Centrifuge Project is based in Oak Ridge, where USEC has a partnership with Babcock & Wilcox.