August 26 TN News Digest

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

Haslam team assembles framework for incentives (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Tennessee is still trying to come up with a standard approach toward offering incentives for business prospects, Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday, adding that the task involves complex considerations about how each development deal is structured. The governor put state development officials to work on a standard approach last March after lawmakers and others began questioning deals struck by Haslam’s predecessor with online re-tailer Amazon.com and appliance maker Electrolux.

Haslam underlines education goals at business gathering (Nooga)

At the end of remarks to a small group of business and government leaders on Wednesday, Gov. Bill Haslam said he hoped that reforming education statewide would be the legacy of his tenure as governor. “If there’s one thing that I hope would happen ten years from now that happens while I’m governor, it is seeing Tennessee continue to raise our own expectations of ourselves when it comes to education,” Haslam said.

Regulatory reform report due in October (Chattanooga Time Free-Press/Sher)

Tennessee’s top state economic development official said Thursday his department will issue a report to Gov. Bill Haslam in October recommending the elimination of “unnecessarily” burdensome health, safety and environmental business regulations. Meanwhile, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty has yet to issue the department’s plan on how it will standardize incentives the state offers to businesses.

Report could aid Haslam in cuts to state business regulations (City Paper/Woods)

State economic development officials say they are conducting a comprehensive analysis of business regulations and plan to recommend eliminating many of them in a report to Gov. Bill Haslam. Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty told Middle Tennessee business executives Thursday his department’s report should be ready by the end of October.

TN Hearings on Fed Biz Regs Expected (TN Report)

State officials are anticipating congressional hearings in Tennessee by the end of this year to address federal regulation on the state’s businesses. Further, Bill Hagerty, commissioner of Economic and Community Development, wants to see small business operators from Tennessee appear at hearings in Washington on regulations, particularly since small businesses may not have the lobbying clout that larger companies enjoy in the nation’s capital.

Haslam Doubts Need for 30 Percent Cuts, But Says It’s Good to Be Ready (WPLN)

Governor Bill Haslam says he doubts Tennessee departments will have to hack 30 percent from their budgets. But with less federal money expected to come to states, Haslam says it’s wise to lay out a plan now. At Haslam’s request departments delivered plans earlier this week for what they’d do if 15 or 30 percent of their budgets evaporated.

Gov. Haslam expects federal cuts to be limited, targeted (Tennessean/Sisk)

Gov. Bill Haslam expects planned cuts in federal funding will be limited to specific programs, despite an effort by state budgeters going on now to plan for reductions of as much as 30 percent. Haslam said Thursday that his administration is trying to prepare for the worst by determining how it would deal with deep cuts, but he expects most decisions about what to eliminate will be made by officials in Washington, D.C.

State spending cuts may affect city (Times Gazette)

Federal spending cuts called for under the recent debt ceiling agreement could have an trickle-down impact on Shelbyville and its residents in the long term. Last week, Tennessee Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes told state agency heads to come up with a plan for how they would deal with losing up to 30 percent of their federal funding as a result of congressional spending cuts.

July unemployment rate down in Shelby County (Memphis Business Journal)

Shelby County’s unemployment rate dropped to 10.6 percent in July, half a percentage point lower than June’s 11.1 percent rate, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development. The unemployment rate decreased in 90 counties across the state last month, almost a complete reversal from the previous month when it rose in 91 counties.

Memphis Jobless Rate 10.4 Pct. in July (Memphis Daily News)

Preliminary figures released by the state of Tennessee Thursday afternoon, Aug. 25, show the Memphis area’s unemployment rate was 10.4 percent in July, down from a revised figure of 10.9 percent in June. It was a slight uptick from July 2010, when the eight-county Memphis metro area’s unemployment rate was 10 percent.

Unemployment rates fall across Middle Tennessee (Nashville Business Journal)

Unemployment in the Nashville metropolitan area dropped across the board in July, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Unemployment in Davidson County dropped to 8.5 percent from 9.1 percent in June, while Williamson County registered the state’s second lowest county unemployment rate, falling to 6.7 percent from 7.2 percent.

July jobless totals mixed (Tennessean/Allyn)

Neighboring counties see less growth than Davidson Davidson County reported its best July unemployment rate in two years, fostering hopes that the local economy is making a shift toward recovery. “It means supply and demand are a little more balanced,” said David Penn, economics professor at Middle Tennessee State University.

Rutherford’s jobless rate improves to 8.5% (Daily News Journal)

Rutherford County’s unemployment rate dropped down to 8.5 percent in July after being at 9.1 percent in June, the state reported today. The county’s rate is better than the state July unemployment of 9.8 percent, which is the same as it was in June, according to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

Knox County jobless rate falls in July (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Knox County’s unemployment rate in July dropped to 7.5 percent, down from 8 percent in June, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday. Hamilton County’s unemployment rate in July dropped to 8.4 percent, down from 9.2 percent the previous month.

High jobless rate in Memphis metro area continues to take its toll (CA/Evanoff)

A burst of 3,700 new jobs pushed the Memphis area’s unemployment rate down in July, but the region remains mired in its long slump. The unemployment rate in the metropolitan area slipped last month to 10.4 percent from June’s 10.9 percent, state labor market analysts reported Thursday.

ECD announces grant opportunities for nine regional entrepreneur centers (MBJ)

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development will award nine competitive grants for regional business accelerators across the state through a program aimed at spurring innovation. The department is accepting applications for the $250,000 grants.

APSU plans new $6M building (Gannett)

Austin Peay State University plans to build a $6 million mathematics and computer science building. The Tennessee Building Commission recently approved APSU’s request for the construction on Eighth Street beside the Hemlock Semiconductor Building.

New UT Health Science Center College of Pharmacy 46 years in making (CA/Sells)

University of Tennessee Health Science Center officials believe the new $70 million College of Pharmacy building opened Thursday will help the pharmacy college have a more than $100 million annual economic impact on Tennessee. The pharmacy college had an $87.2 million economic impact last year, according to a 2010 study by researchers at the University of Memphis.

Applications due Sept. 21 to replace Judge Jeff Bivins (Tennessean)

The Judicial Nominating Commission is accepting applications through Sept. 21 for the Circuit Court vacancy in the 21st Judicial District following Gov. Bill Haslam’s appointment of Williamson County Circuit Judge Jeff Bivins to the state Court of Criminal Appeals. Bivins, 50, was one of the three people that the state Judicial Nominating Commission recommended in June to fill a vacancy on the court created by the retirement of Judge David H. Welles.

Indicted court clerk Otis Jackson loses bid to lift suspension (C. Appeal/Buser)

A judge Thursday denied a petition by indicted General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson, who contends his suspension earlier this month was unconstitutional. Chancellor Kenny Armstrong said state law allows the judges of General Sessions to suspend a clerk without a hearing following an indictment.

Animals suffer as TN balks at cruelty laws (Tennessean/Haas)

A collection of emaciated-looking horses stands in a Robertson County pasture while sheriff’s detectives investigate whether they are being mistreated. Nearby, the county’s leaders are mulling over whether to eliminate its animal control services to trim the budget.

Some Have Big Problems With Amazon’s Tax Free Status (WTVF-TV Nashville)

A lot has changed since D.T. McCall & Sons first opened well over a century ago. Today some competitors only exist online. Co-owner A.J. McCall said by not charging sales tax they operate at an unfair advantage.

License plate lodge lacks records (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Flory)

An East Tennessee foundation that gets the bulk of its revenue from sales of a specialty license plate has not kept formal records about the use of a lodge that was built using money from the plates. The Sportsmen’s Wildlife Foundation is led by H.E. Bittle, a former state representative from Knox County who in 1999 was the prime sponsor of legislation creating the “Sportsman” license plate, which features an image of a deer.

Progressive groups target Sen. Corker’s office (Tennessean/Sisk)

Activists want Washington to concentrate on creating jobs Progressive groups wrapped up a series of protests aimed at Republican lawmakers with a rush-hour picket at the Nashville office of U.S. Sen. Bob Corker. About 30 people, most of them affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, lined West End Avenue near the intersection with Murphy Road to protest planned cuts to the federal budget.

Frist: Health care law here to stay (Nashville Business Journal)

The new health care law championed by President Barack Obama is “not going to be repealed,” former Tennessee Republican Bill Frist said Wednesday. Politico.com reports that Frist made the comments during a health care conference in Sioux Falls, S.D. Even if the law’s individual mandate is scrapped as unconstitutional, as Frist believes it should be, he said the rest of the law will not fall away.

Health Law Puts Governors in Pickle (Wall Street Journal)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, along with a slew of other Republican governors, faces a dilemma: Do they apply for millions of dollars in federal grants by September to begin establishing state-run health insurance exchanges, or let the deadline slide, lose the federal money and risk falling into a federally run exchange? Republican governors are unanimous in their condemnation of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Study: States enrolling more children in CHIP (Stateline)

Even as states struggled to meet their Medicaid obligations during the recession, most increased the percentage of kids covered under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Thirty states boosted the proportion of eligible kids covered under the federal-state program and the national average moved from 80 percent to nearly 85 percent, according to a new report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute.

National Parks Tap Fear Factor (Wall Street Journal)

Faced with rising fatalities and exploding search-and-rescue costs, national parks are turning to an ounce of prevention to reduce visitor accidents. “If you lose your footing, powerful currents will carry you over the falls,” warns a sign at Yosemite National Park that advises visitors not to wade upstream from a waterfall.

TVA, NRC to discuss Browns Ferry (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sohn)

Federal regulators will meet Tuesday with the Tennessee Valley Authority to discuss planned inspections prompted by a “red” — or “high safety significance” — rating at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in North Alabama. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the meeting, scheduled at 10 a.m. in Atlanta, is open to the public.

Report: Y-12 may not meet uranium requirements by 2019 (News-Sentinel/Munger)

A new report raises questions of whether a 60-year-old uranium processing operation at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant will be able to fulfill its mission requirements for another decade, when a proposed multibillion-dollar replacement facility is scheduled to come online. The staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, in a brief report dated July 22, said that B&W Y-12 — the managing contractor at Y-12 — had informed the government that the 9212 complex will be “unable to produce a sufficient quantity of purified enriched uranium metal to support customer requirements beginning in 2019.”

1,400 pounds of copper stolen from Y-12 (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Munger)

A federal spokesman confirmed that about 1,400 pounds of copper was stolen last year from the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, but he would not discuss specifics of the case because of the involvement of law enforcement and an ongoing criminal investigation. The theft occurred at a demolition project in an area of the plant outside the high-security zone where nuclear weapons are put together and taken apart, according to Steven Wyatt, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Plans for $200M solar plant in Clinton are abandoned (News-Sentinel/Fowler)

Plans by Confluence Solar Inc. to build a $200 million plant in Clinton to produce silicon ingots for solar cells have been abandoned, an official confirmed this morning. GT Advanced Technologies, Inc. purchased privately-held Confluence Solar for its technological expertise and not its manufacturing plans, said Jeff Nestel-Patt, director of marketing and communications.

Shelby County school board approves deal (Associated Press)

Shelby County’s school board has approved a plan to establish a 23-member transitional board that will oversee the merger with Memphis City Schools. Shelby County Schools president David Pickler tells The Associated Press that the county board unanimously approved the plan Thursday.

Shelby Co., Memphis boards unanimously OK merger deal (CA/Roberts, McMillin)

Dormant during months of legal wrangling, school consolidation began springing to life Thursday, one day after all parties agreed to a deal worked out in mediation sessions with U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays. The boards for Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools each met and voted unanimously to approve the settlement agreement that calls for the boards to unite by Oct. 1.

SCS, MCS Boards Take First Steps Toward Unity (Memphis Flyer)

A day after the sanctioning by federal Judge Hardy Mays of a Memorandum of Understanding binding the several litigating parties in the school-merger case, the two school systems about to become one — Shelby County Schools and Memphis City Schools — took their first concrete steps toward union. First up was SCS, which, in that body’s typically brisk manner, ran through a standard administrative agenda, then voted to accept the MOU with only modest misgivings expressed by Bartlett board member David Reaves.

Two School Boards Approve Consolidation Court Settlement (M. Daily News)

The Memphis City Schools board and the Shelby County Schools board each approved the settlement of the schools consolidation lawsuit Thursday, Aug. 25, in separate meetings. And the MCS board appointed its five members to a 21-member transition planning commission.

School Systems Brace for Rapid Transition (Memphis Daily News)

The still-tentative settlement of the most political part of the schools consolidation lawsuit will mean a quick transition for the most critical player in the change – the county school board that becomes the countywide school board in five weeks. Oct. 1 is when the Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools boards are put together for 16 positions on a 23-member transitional countywide board.

Knox Mayor Tim Burchett wants to revive Carter Elementary project (NS/Donilia)

The Knox County administration Thursday laid the groundwork to resuscitate its plan to build a new elementary school in the Carter community, a week after the initial builder pulled out. In a series of phone calls, county Mayor Tim Burchett and his chief of staff Dean Rice reached out to commissioners and school officials, letting them know they wanted to begin negotiations with Knoxville-based Partners Development, the No. 2 bidder for the project.

Metro’s Virtual School has 135-plus openings (Tennessean)

Metro Nashville Public Schools has openings for 135 full-time and several part-time students in its online high school. The Virtual School offers classes in all core subjects; Advanced Placement courses in English, English literature, biology, macroeconomics, psychology, U.S. history and statistics; and other areas of study.

Vaccine rules hit students of all ages (Tennessean/Wilemon)

Metro Nashville schools see high noncompliance Students in public schools and colleges had a bit of wiggle room last year for complying with new immunization requirements. That changed this year. Roger Qualls of Portland didn’t enroll in college as planned.

Drought returns to region (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Johns)

If cloudless skies, crunching dry grass and wilted flowers weren’t enough of an indication, it’s official — drought has returned to Chattanooga. The U.S. Drought Monitor released a report Thursday morning with a swath of “moderate drought” extending through Northwest Georgia into parts of several Southeast Tennessee counties.

OPINION

Geoff Calkins: 23’s a crowd for new school board (Commercial Appeal)

Diane George, a member of the Shelby County Schools board, had a question about logistics. “Where will we be meeting?” she asked.

Editorial: Shelby County sets pace on wages (Commercial Appeal)

The benefits expected from a prevailing wage ordinance can be expected to outweigh the cost. Finally, the lengthy delay is over, and Shelby County government is on its way to enforcement of a prevailing wage standard for contractors on major county projects. The County Commission voted 8-2 this week to create a new board to make sure that workers on construction contracts worth $500,000 and up or subcontracts worth more than $100,000 are paid according to a prevailing wage.

Editorial: The Shortage of Vital Drugs (New York Times)

A widespread shortage of prescription drugs is hampering the treatment of patients who have cancer, severe infections and other serious illnesses. While some Republican politicians have railed against the imaginary threat of rationing under health care reform, Congress has done nothing to alleviate the all-too-real rationing of lifesaving drugs caused by this crisis.