August 29 TN News Digest

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

National Guard responds to Hurricane Irene (Business Clarksville)

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Major General Max Haston, Tennessee’s Adjutant General, announced today that more than 2,000 Tennessee National Guard troops will respond to East Coast states to assist in rescue and recovery operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. “Tennessee received a request through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact for troops and equipment for rescue and recovery operations in the wake of Hurricane Irene,” said MG Haston.

Tennessee National Guard not deploying to East Coast states (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

Members of the Tennessee National Guard were preparing today to help with humanitarian efforts along the East Coast. But 10News has just learned their troops just got word they won’t be deployed after all.

Tennessee National Guard stands down for hurricane relief (Times Free-Press)

Bags were packed, equipment and vehicles loaded and soldiers and airmen ready to move to Fort Pickett, Va., when more than 2,000 troops from Tennessee were ordered to stand down preparations to assist after Hurricane Irene. “We received the call from National Guard Bureau in Washington at about 5 p.m. on Sunday to stand down operations and recall the advance party already in Virginia,” stated Randy Harris, spokesman for the Tennessee Military Department.

College transfers becoming easier (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Trevizo)

For the first time, local higher education institutions are offering more than two dozen majors that can be transferred easily from one college to another. The University of Tennessee system and the Tennessee Board of Regents announced last week the creation of “Tennessee Transfer Pathways” to help students transition from a two- to four-year college.

TennCare committee urges broader stop-smoking coverage (Tenn./Gonzalez)

The TennCare Pharmacy Advisory Committee has recommended placing fewer restrictions on smoking cessation options for enrollees. This year, TennCare has $10.5 million available for smoking cessation.

Tennessee legislators make summer trip to China (Knox. News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

The organizer of a trip by 15 state legislators to China this summer says he returned with a “verbal commitment” from Chinese officials to match up to $5 million in state money for establishing educational ties between the nation and Tennessee. The lawmakers, including Reps. Ryan Haynes and Harry Tindell of Knoxville, spent 10 days touring the Asian nation last month.

Lawmaker defends union title (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sher)

Tennessee’s new state AFL-CIO president, state Rep. Gary Moore, D-Joelton, is shrugging off a top Republican official’s charge that his new job poses a legislative conflict. “They’re going to say what they’re going to say, and I’m going to do what I’m going to do,” Moore said of criticism by Tennessee Republican Party Chairman.

Legislator becomes state union chief; GOP sees conflict (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

State Rep. Gary Moore, the newly-elected president of the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council, says he will separate his duties as a legislator from the statewide union’s lobbying and political activities. State Republican Chairman Chris Devaney questions whether that is possible.

Amazon Puts Up $5 Million To Prevent Customers From Paying Sales Tax (WTVF)

Amazon is not afraid to put up a $5 million fight so that its customers do not have to pay sales tax. Amazon has started hiring for three distribution centers coming to Middle and East Tennessee. The company said they should not have to collect sales tax, referring to a previous deal worked out with former Governor Phil Bredesen.

Tennessee authorities expect surge in heroin use (Associated Press)

Law enforcement agents around Tennessee are bracing for a resurgence of heroin use as prescription drug users turn to the drug, fueled by users’ need for a low-cost alternative and dealers’ aggressive marketing techniques. “What’s happened is the people who sell this product have made it appear safer, made it less expensive, and they give you the misconception that it’s less harmful if you smoke it,” said Dr. Terry Alley, an addiction specialist at Cumberland Heights, a drug and alcohol recovery center near Nashville.

Census: Fewer Tenn. kids living in married homes (Associated Press/Hall)

Newly released Census data finds that fewer Tennessee children live in homes with married parents and more children are living with a single parent or with a grandparent compared to a decade ago. According to the census data released this month, 58 percent of children lived in a married family household in Tennessee in 2010, which includes remarried parents and stepfamilies.

Speeding offenses, fines dropping as traffic camera awareness builds (NS/Fowler)

When controversial traffic safety cameras were installed at four locations next to city roadways two years ago, officials made a prediction. They forecast that as motorists learned about the system, the number of violations recorded by cameras would decline.

High-profile TN back candidates, prep to pursue contributions (CP/Whitehouse)

Earlier this year, Middle Tennessee was inundated by swarms of cicadas, awaking from their 13-year incubation period and buzzing around us until they met their demise on many of our windshields. A new swarm is gathering — one that feeds on green, and their incessant buzzing will come from cell phones and gossip.

Irene damage less than feared (Associated Press/Wagner, Rugaber)

Fragile U.S. economy may get boost from rebuilding effort Damage from Irene appears to be less than feared, a bit of reassuring news for a fragile economy. Insured damage from Irene will range between $2 billion and $3 billion, and the total losses probably will be about $7 billion, according to preliminary estimates by Kinetic Analysis Corp., a consulting firm. Both figures are less than had been expected and probably mean little damage to the nation’s $14 trillion economy.

From Coastline to Mountains, Water Fast and Lethal (New York Times)

In southern New Jersey, a 20-year-old woman called her boyfriend early Sunday to tell him that she was trapped in her car with water that was up to her neck. Then she called the police.

When Civic Mergers Don’t Save Money (Wall Street Journal)

Governors and lawmakers across the U.S., looking to trim the costs of local government, are prodding school districts, townships and other entities to combine into bigger jurisdictions. But a number of studies—and evidence from past consolidations—suggest such mergers rarely save money, and in many cases, they end up raising costs.

Tax supporters turn to the ballot box (Stateline)

As Colorado contemplated large cuts to public education earlier this year, Rollie Heath wished that the state would raise taxes instead. Although Heath is a member of the Democratic majority in the state Senate and sits on the powerful appropriations committee, he didn’t try to use his legislative influence to persuade lawmakers to pass a tax increase.

NRC requires new look at quake risks for reactors (Times Free-Press/Sohn)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission later this year will provide nuclear plants with a seismic analysis software tool and require all of the nation’s 104 reactors to assess their earthquake risks. NRC announced the plan Thursday, two days after a 5.8 quake rattled the East Coast and shut down the North Anna nuclear facility near the quake’s epicenter in Mineral, Va.

School merger begins to take shape (Commercial Appeal/McMillin)

Officials look to solidify transition team by end of week; new board members being determined Consolidation of Shelby County’s schools, stuck in neutral for many months, began moving forward with last week’s settlement agreement and is poised to accelerate this week. Officials charged with selecting the crew that will navigate the transition want to complete or come close to finalizing selection of two key bodies by the end of the week.

Williamson students can bring own technology to school (Tennessean/Giordano)

Without access to a language lab to improve her students’ conversational skills in French, Franklin High School teacher Betsy Taylor turned to the Internet for an alternative. She needed her upper-level students to have authentic conversations that relied solely on being able to listen and converse with no visual cues — sort of like talking on the telephone — and she needed to be able to grade them, Taylor said.

Indiana: Ind. school voucher program cheered, criticized (Indianapolis Star)

Single mother Heather Coffy faced a tough decision: return her son to a public school where he struggled academically or fall behind on her monthly mortgage payments to keep him and her two other children in private Catholic schools where they were flourishing. In April, the Indiana Legislature provided another option — vouchers that allow low-and middle-income families to use public funds to help pay private school tuition.

OPINION

Editorial: Cruelty image is well earned (Commercial Appeal)

Don’t write off Tennessee’s reputation as a product of its rural roots or respect for property. In the past three years, Tennessee has had 17 large-scale animal emergency cases, as The Tennessean newspaper refers to neglected herds of horses, flocks of birds kept captive but uncared for and the like. That’s more than any other state, and it’s one of the reasons the Humane Society of the United States has labeled Tennessee one of the worst states in the nation for protecting animals.

Times Editorial: New roles for grandparents (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

The stereotype of a U.S. grandparent has long been that of a kindly, graying, sedentary individual who stayed close to home or lived quietly and mostly out of sight in what were called “retirement homes.” Though that image was widely accepted, it probably was never true.

David Cook: Robin Hood goes to college (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Since taking office in January, Chuck Fleischmann, our city’s representative in Congress, has sponsored only one bill. Only one. And majestic it is not.

Free-Press Editorial: Economy entering Recession Part 2? (Times Free-Press)

For tens of millions of Americans, one fact tells them all they need to know about the economic crisis: They either cannot find a job, or they can get only a part-time job when they really need full-time work. Their pain is immediate and intense: They wonder how they will provide food and shelter for their families — let alone how they will begin to set aside something for retirement.

Columnist: Smartphones Are Bridging the Digital Divide (Wall Street Journal)

Federal regulators weighing the proposed AT&T and T-Mobile merger must not ignore a significant but quietly unfolding revolution in how Americans connect to the Internet for information and products. The changes began with the 2007-2008 launch of the iPhone and Android and have accelerated with the introduction of low-cost cellphone plans.