August 19 TN News Digest

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

Haslam in Johnson City: Better education means better economy (J. City Press)

Improving education is one of the keys to furthering economic development in Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam told an audience of state Chamber of Commerce executives in Johnson City on Thursday. “We most definitely need to address the challenges of work force development and education,” Haslam said.

Governor Haslam on job creation and economic development (Herald-Courier)

As unemployment hovers around nine and a half percent in the volunteer state, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is on the road to encourage small businesses, and the communities. Today, he made several stops in Northeast Tennessee.

Governor Haslam Visits Tri-Cities (WCBY-TV Johnson City)

As Governor Bill Haslam kicked off Thursday’s tour of the Tri-Cities, the Gray Fossil Site received a check for more than $145,000 to create a picnic area, some new signs and landscaping. The project will be underway this fall in an effort to attract more visitors.

Morristown company expands, Haslam touts new jobs (WVLT-TV Knoxville)

Governor Bill Haslam stopped to talk jobs on the heels of some good news. Mahle Morristown is growing. “Morristown truly is friendly to industry. They really do have a good workforce, a developed workforce,” said Plant Manager Jim Sexton.

Governor Haslam speaks about state’s economy (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

Governor Bill Haslam said the state is doing everything it can to create new jobs. The Governor spoke about the economy on Thursday at a meeting at Walter’s State Community College in Morristown. New numbers out on Thursday show Tennessee unemployment rate remained unchanged and held steady at 9.8%.

Quaprotek Opening Ripley Facility (TN Report)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty today joined with Lauderdale County officials in announcing the decision by Quaprotek USA to locate a manufacturing facility for the production of metal parts for vehicles, engines and power trains in Ripley, Tenn. The German-based company will invest $22 million to fit out a 63,000 square foot existing building on Highland Street in Ripley, creating 126 jobs over a five year period to supply leading manufacturers within the automotive industry.

Haslam wants quicker national online tax rules (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that not every member of Tennessee’s congressional delegation shares his urgency about establishing national rules for collecting online sales tax from retailers like Haslam said after an appearance at East Tennessee State University that he’s hoping for national guidelines on the issue within the next two years.

Southern governors converge on Asheville to discuss economic strategies (C-T)

A few rounds of golf. A “Puerto Rico Late Night Party.”

Sumner volunteers receive Environmental Stewardship Award (Tennessean)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Deputy Gov. Claude Ramsey and Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau presented the 2011 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards at the Ellington Agriculture Center campus in Nashville on Aug. 12, recognizing 15 honorees statewide whose efforts have made a positive impact on the state’s natural resources. Among the winners was a nine-member water quality committee from Sumner County, created to ensure the protection of Slaters and Mansker creeks in the cities of Millersville and Goodlettsville.

State gets $1.4 million for suicide prevention (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health has been awarded a grant of more than $1.4 million to fight suicides by youths. The grant, over three years, was made by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Long DMV lines prompt outrage, scrutiny and quick changes (Tri-State Defender)

Complaints regarding the long lines forming outside of the Shelby County’s driver’s license centers in hard-to-handle hot weather have prompted national outrage, scrutiny and some quick fixes. The New Tri-State Defender was first to report last month that some Memphians at the driver’s license center at 6340 Summer Ave, had to wait four to five hours to get their drivers licenses and state-sanctioned photo ids, while in some predominantly white counties customers waited on average 20 minutes or less.

July unemployment holds at 9.8 percent (Associated Press)

Tennessee’s July unemployment rate of 9.8 percent remained unchanged from the previous month. State Labor Commissioner Karla Davis says “statistics behind the unchanged unemployment rate show a slight drop in employment numbers along with an overall decline in the labor force.”

State Unemployment Stands Still at 9.8 Percent in July (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Fewer people were looking for work in Tennessee last month – but not necessarily because they found jobs. The state’s monthly unemployment rate stood still in July, holding at 9.8 percent, above the national average.

Tennessee unemployment steady at 9.8 percent in July (Memphis Biz Journal)

Tennessee maintained its 9.8 percent unemployment rate in July as both the state’s employment and labor force notched a decline. The state jobless rate was higher than the national rate, which fell to 9.1 percent in July compared to 9.2 percent in June.

Grant to aid screening, staffing at convention center worksite (City Paper)

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, in conjunction with the Nashville Career Advancement Center, has awarded a one-year $100,000 grant to fund positions that will aid in the screening and staffing at the Music City Center, Convention Center Authority Chairman Marty Dickens announced Thursday. The grant will fund salaries for three full-time staff members who will facilitate hiring during construction of the project.

Expansion permit proposed (Marshall County Tribune)

The Tennessee Department of Environment has a proposal for the expansion of Cedar Ridge Landfill, which, if approved by the state Solid Waste Disposal Control Board, could lead to a permit to let Waste Management Inc. bury trash over a sinkhole to be capped on eight unused acres of Cedar Ridge Landfill.

APSU, Vol State create transfer program (Tennessean/Young)

Austin Peay State University and Volunteer State Community College have joined forces to offer a new transfer degree program. The Chemical Engineering Technology 1+1 Agreement allows students to transfer from the Sumner County community college into the chemical engineering technology program at Austin Peay in Clarksville.

MTSU, Army will team up on drones (Tennessean/Bewley)

Middle Tennessee State University is partnering with the U.S. Army to research and develop drones, officials announced Thursday. Officials say the partnership — the first between the Army’s drone office and a university — will allow the Army to more easily recruit MTSU graduates for jobs and will help soldiers who want classroom training in operating drones.

States try to make kids count (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Carroll)

When it comes to health studies, Southern states often scrape the bottom of the national barrel. That tendency held up in a comprehensive children’s wellness study in which Mississippi took last place and other Southern states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana and South Carolina, rounded out the bottom 10. Tennessee officials, however, touted the state’s highest-ever overall ranking — 39th.

Judicial shuffle turns divorce court into crapshoot (Tennessean/Gee)

A collective groan rose up from Nashville’s family lawyers Thursday afternoon when the news came down: Beginning next month, new divorce cases that go to trial could end up in one of 12 courts — and the decision won’t be made until the day of trial. The arrangement is one component of a larger plan devised to divide the domestic relations docket in Davidson County.

Watson Working for Tax-Ruling Transparency (TN Report)

Hixon Republican Bo Watson backed off state legislation this year that would bring transparency to so-called “private letter rulings” — written statements issued to taxpayers from tax-collection agencies — because he was satisfied with efforts by the Tennessee Department of Revenue commissioner to do it on his own. But even Sen. Watson remains uncertain if the effort for more openness is workable, because of privacy issues related to the rulings.

Governments share planners (Jackson Sun)

Cities like Bolivar and Parsons join Hardeman and Haywood counties At least eight local West Tennessee governments have solved the problem of losing city planners whose salaries were partially funded by the state. The cities of Bolivar, Brownsville, Henderson, Lexington, Parsons and Stanton along with Hardeman and Haywood counties have contracted with the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development to hire two professional planners.

EPA says Clarksville’s air quality meets standards (Leaf Chronicle)

Ozone improves with fewer drivers on roads, new tech Out of a bad economy comes improving air quality for the four-county Clarksville Metropolitan Statistical Area. That was essentially the word Thursday from the Clarksville Urbanized Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, a multi-county group that focuses on transportation issues of common interest.

Fleischmann checks in from Israel (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., hosted a media conference call Thursday and discussed his trip to Israel, but he decided against answering questions that were a little closer to home. Fleischmann, a freshman congressman for Tennessee’s 3rd District, said he hadn’t seen Perry’s remarks because he’s been busy in Israel, where 80 other representatives have either already made or will take a trip for diplomatic and educational purposes.

Fincher describes fact-finding trip to Israel as educational, emotional (CA/Sullivan)

Describing his first trip to Israel as both an emotional and an educational experience, U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher checked in by telephone Thursday night from the Sea of Galilee. Fincher and his wife, Lynn, have traveled all over the region since Monday and have met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and senior Palestinian officials but not President Mahmoud Abbas, who had a scheduling conflict Wednesday and had to be in Lebanon, Fincher said. Netanyahu told the group that he’s “ready and willing to sit down with President Abbas — any time, any place — to try to work out something, to negotiate, but it just seems kind of locked up right now,” Fincher said.

Fleischmann Affirms U.S. Commitment in Israel (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee Congressman Chuck Fleischmann underscored the United States’ devotion to Israel today, calling it America’s “steadyfast ally” and a “beacon of democracy.” Fleischmann spoke to reporters on a conference call from Israel, where 81 members of Congress are traveling during the August recess.

11 Tennessee sites added to historic register (Associated Press)

Eleven Tennessee sites, from Fort Nashborough in downtown Nashville to Vanderbilt University’s Alumni Memorial Hall, have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Other Nashville sites include the U.S. Naval Reserve Training Center in Shelby Park, which has a faade that resembles the prow of a ship, and the Tennessee State Office Building, known better as the Sevier Building.

TVA board approves construction of Bellefonte nuclear plant (AP/Poovey)

Board also votes unanimously to raise rates $1.60 per month The Tennessee Valley Authority board voted unanimously Thursday to finish construction of the 37-year-old Bellefonte nuclear plant in northeast Alabama and to increase rates for average residential customers by $1.60 a month in October. The nine board members took both votes — first on the plant and later on the rate increase — at a daylong meeting that drew about 200 people, including opponents and supporters of restarting construction of a reactor at the shuttered nuke project.

TVA officials say 2% increase to cover 2012 shortfall (Times Free-Press/Sohn)

Electricity will cost more come October. On Thursday, TVA’s board unanimously approved a 2 percent rate increase effective Oct. 1. Officials say the increase is to help the utility cover a $234 million shortfall in its 2012 fiscal budget. The rate increase will amount to about $1.60 on the average residential bill, said TVA Treasurer John Thomas.

TVA approves completion of Bellefonte nuclear plant, rate increase (NS/Flory)

Not even Santa could stop the resurrection of Bellefonte. TVA’s board of directors on Thursday voted to approve completion of the Unit 1 reactor at the mothballed Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in North Alabama. No board members voted against the move, which was strongly opposed by many clean-energy advocates.

Bellefonte restart gets green light (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sohn)

After hearing about 70 speakers support or oppose nuclear power and the completion of the half-finished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, the TVA board voted unanimously on Thursday to restart construction. The nine-member Tennessee Valley Authority board also authorized paying for Bellefonte’s completion by selling the nearly complete Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear reactor in Rhea County and the John Sevier gas plant.

TVA board approves pollution-control measures at Memphis plant (CA/Charlier)

About $600 million in scrubbers approved for the Allen Fossil Plant on Thursday will remove thousands of tons of pollution from Memphis skies, but utility customers will help pay for the cleaner air with a rate increase. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors on Thursday unanimously approved spending more than $1.5 billion to install pollution-control equipment at the Allen facility and at the Gallatin Fossil Plant near Nashville.

TVA to Pursue a Restart at Bellefonte (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

The Tennessee Valley Authority is picking up steam on nuclear power. The utility’s board of directors voted Thursday to restart another mothballed nuclear plant called Bellefonte, in northeast Alabama.

TVA backs off plan to relocate historic Anderson County cabin (N-S/Fowler)

Faced with stiff opposition from the owners of Anderson County oldest known building, TVA has backed off plans to try to acquire their property and relocate the structure. But officials with TVA are still eyeing other areas of the Claxton community near the old David Hall cabin for a proposed expansion of a coal ash storage area.

Memphis, Shelby Co. schools under gun to reach agreement fast (CA/McMillin)

As the parties involved in the school-merger lawsuit meet today with U.S. District Court Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays, there is widespread agreement on at least one thing — the judge wants them to reach a settlement. And those involved also seem to share this sentiment — the sooner an accord is reached, the better.

Metro staffing increased for school vaccines (Tennessean)

Metro Public Health has beefed up nurse staffing and opened another shot clinic so children who haven’t received required immunizations can get back into school. The number of nurses who will staff a clinic today from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m in the Lentz Health Center has increased to five.

Bradley County leaders hear school system requests (Times Free-Press/Leach)

While Bradley County Schools plans to spend about $26.5 million on construction projects, the system’s needs go well beyond that, its superintendent says. The system also needs to examine the recurring costs within its operating budget, especially in regard to technology, Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel told county commissioners this week.

Committee given options for Knox school board redistricting (N-S/McCoy)

In one of the five plans presented for the realignment of the Knox County school board’s nine districts, a majority of residents would remain in the same district and all nine school board members would also keep their respective districts. On Thursday, the committee in charge of redistricting the nine school board districts was presented for its review and eventual approval four plans developed by Tim Kuhn, manager of the geographic information services for the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission.

New Carter school possibly dead (Knoxville News-Sentinel/McCoy, Donila)

Monday’s final vote may be tabled 90 days The proposal to build the Carter community a new elementary school is now on hold and possibly dead after the developer pulled out Thursday, saying “political agendas” and opposition have “significantly changed the dynamic” of the plan. The announcement, made by the Devon Group — which officials hoped would oversee the construction of the $13.8 million project — comes about nine months after the mayor started working to bring a new school to the East Knox County area and just days before county commissioners were set to vote on the overall initiative.

Fairview City Hall evacuated after seized meth ingredient causes fumes (TN/Young)

Fairview City Hall had to be evacuated and 13 people were taken to local hospitals after an acid obtained during a meth lab bust was released into the air. Fairview Police Sgt. Pat Stockdale said officers made a traffic stop at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday near City Hall, where the police offices are housed.

Connecticut: Workers Approve Contract They Had Rejected (New York Times)

Two months after Connecticut workers rejected an agreement meant to save $1.6 billion over two years, union leaders said on Thursday that they had accepted the same deal, bowing to the threat of layoffs in a year full of battles between unions and state governments. After the June vote, unions representing 45,000 state workers changed the voting rules to make approval more likely.


Editorial: Gov. Haslam must be firm in renegotiating Amazon sales tax deal (N-S)

Gov. Bill Haslam is trying to work out a deal with Amazon that would result in the online business moving forward with plans to build three distribution centers in Tennessee and collect state sales taxes like any other retailer. Under an arrangement with Haslam’s predecessor, Phil Bredesen, Amazon would remain exempt from collecting sales taxes from Tennessee customers even though its proposed warehouses would give the company a physical presence in the state.

Greg Johnson: ‘Slobberknocker’ of debate is expected (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

It’s almost football time in Tennessee, and the University of Tennessee Volunteers will soon provide distraction from the Obama Malaise and the D.C. Dysfunction. While Big Orange fans anticipate an invasion by Grizzlies from Montana, most folks aren’t vetting the guys in the black and white who will maintain order on the field at Neyland Stadium.

Guest columnist: Nashville in fight to promote tolerance (Tennessean)

Will Nashville boom or bust? In June, Forbes declared the Music City third in the nation on its list of cities positioned for growth and prosperity in the next decade. According to the experts, factors like low housing prices, a pro-business climate and a high quality of life make Nashville an attractive city for the groups that will determine future success: college-educated workers, new families and immigrants.

Editorial: Tea Party protest of Black sign of troubles (Daily News Journal)

They march to their own beat politically, so much so that you never know what’s next when it comes to the Tea Party. Just ask Diane Black. The 6th District congressman found her Murfreesboro office the site of about 50 Tea Party protesters this week.

Guest columnist: Meth-lab cleanup gets tougher (Tennessean)

Law enforcement finds efficiencies in central storage Since 1999, through federal funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force has been a successful partnership of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies serving the citizens of Tennessee by working to combat methamphetamine. There have been more than 12,000 meth lab seizures in Tennessee since the task force began.

Guest columnist: Program gives investigators more time (Tennessean)

The effects of methamphetamine within Warren County can be seen by all that live within its boundaries. The underlying cost of protecting the community from the drug is one that is reserved for those that are generally directly affected.

Columnists: ObamaCare’s Latest Judicial Defeat (Wall Street Journal)

In the most comprehensive judicial opinion to date, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit last week ruled (2-1) that Congress cannot compel Americans to buy and maintain health insurance. Unlike the Florida district court that earlier found ObamaCare unconstitutional, the 11th Circuit did not invalidate the entire law.