September 1 TN News Digest

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

Governor Plans Jobs Trip To California (TN Report)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will travel to California in September as part of his job recruitment efforts, which have included a series of meetings with business leaders at the governor’s mansion and in other cities. Haslam’s California trip will include stops in both the Bay Area of San Francisco and the Los Angeles area.

Memphis leaders tell governor how he can improve biz recruitment (CA/Bailey)

Gov. Bill Haslam, standing Wednesday before about 50 people who lead economic development in Memphis and Shelby County, threw out a question: “What are ways the state can help the most?” Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. quickly raised his hand at the meeting, which brought together the Memphis Fast Forward Steering Committee, state officials, the new EDGE (Economic Development Growth Engine) board, suburban mayors, Chamber officials, and a half-dozen state representatives and senators.

Haslam to Appoint Schools Consolidation Commission (Memphis Daily News)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said during a Memphis visit Wednesday, Aug. 31, that he should appoint his choice to a schools consolidation transition committee this week, possibly as early as Thursday. Haslam is among the state leaders who appoint members to the 21-member commission set out in the state law passed earlier this year governing the consolidation of Shelby County’s two public school systems.

Auto Supplier’s New Facility To Bring 400 Jobs To Tenn. (Associated Press)

An automotive supplier will open a new $23 million manufacturing plant and create 400 jobs in the next five years in Perry County, where the unemployment rate in recent years has reached nearly 30 percent, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday. The Republican governor and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said Michigan-based NYX Inc. is coming to Linden, Tenn. and will produce molded plastics for a wide variety of automotive manufacturers starting next year.

Haslam, Alexander Agree Gov’t Can’t Subsidize Ethanol Indefinitely (TN Report)

Gov. Bill Haslam wholeheartedly supported the concept Tuesday of making cellulosic ethanol in Tennessee — but not so much government paying for it. Haslam joined U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in touring the fields and facilities in Monroe County involved with Tennessee’s venture into turning switchgrass into fuel.

Haslam not ready to say how TN would handle cuts (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam isn’t ready to say how Tennessee would respond if the deep cuts to the state’s share of federal funding become a reality. The Haslam administration this week released state agencies’ plans for how they would cope with the loss of up to 30 percent of their federal funding.

Kingsport gets $650,000 grant for Greenbelt (Times News)

The Kingsport Greenbelt received a $650,000 federal boost Tuesday morning, money that will go toward extending the 9-mile-long walking and biking trail across the old Rotherwood Bridge. The city of Kingsport will receive a $652,577 transportation enhancement grant to extend the Greenbelt from the confluence of the Holston River at Riverfront Park across the old Rotherwood Bridge and down Netherland Inn Road to Rotherwood Drive.

TennCare Bureau to decide on smoking-related recommendation (CP/Williams)

The Bureau of TennCare will announce Thursday its decision whether its preferred list of FDA-approved smoking cessation agents will be expanded to include not only generic prescription products and over-the-counter products but also some previously non-preferred drugs. The decision will act on a TennCare Pharmacy Advisory Committee recommendation but not necessarily follow it in full, according to TennCare Bureau officials.

TennCare Spend Down Program not Filled to Capacity (WTVF-TV Nashville)

As TennCare announces another opportunity to get enrolled in the Standard Spend Down program, questions are being raised. The program was designed to help 7,000 people, but so far it has only helped hundreds even though the program is nearly a year old.

TennCare Offers Help With Medical Bills (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)

The TennCare Standard Spend Down program will again offer open enrollment opportunities to new applicants on Monday, Sept. 12, 2011 beginning at 6 p.m. CST. Standard Spend Down is available through a waiver to the Medicaid program for a limited number of qualified low income individuals, or those with high, unpaid medical bills who are aged, blind, disabled, or the caretaker relative of a Medicaid eligible child.

TennCare to Take New ‘Standard Spend Down’ Applicants (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

An earlier version of this story said TennCare will help people who qualify under Standard Spend Down to pay off their medical debt. That’s only true of debts accrued after the application date.

Family sues New Life Lodge for $32M after woman’s death (Tenn/Roche)

Just shy of a year after her death, the family of a 29-year-old woman has filed a $32 million lawsuit against New Life Lodge and its parent company, CRC Health, charging the California firm put profits ahead of care for its patients. In a 13-page complaint filed this week in Dickson County Circuit Court, Lindsey Poteet’s mother charged that overcrowded conditions and inadequate staff led to the death of the Monterey resident on Sept. 1 of last year in a Nashville hospital.

Highway construction halts for Labor Day travel (Associated Press)

Tennessee transportation officials have told road contractors to knock off at noon Friday for the Labor Day weekend. Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said the unofficial end-of-summer holiday is one of the busiest weekends on state highways.

Labor Day weekend slows TN roadwork; still be cautious (Tennessean/Young)

The Tennessee Department of Transportation will suspend construction work requiring lane closings through Labor Day weekend in anticipation of increased holiday travel. The suspension will be in effect from noon on Friday until 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ is safety slogan (Associated Press)

State troopers are stepping up DUI enforcement over the Labor Day weekend. The Tennessee Highway Patrol will join a nationwide enforcement effort for which a slogan has been coined — “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”

Sullivan Co. voter fraud probe fizzles (Times-News)

An investigation of allegedly illegally registered voters, instigated after Administrator of Elections Jason Booher claimed voter fraud had occurred in Sullivan County for years, showed nothing to justify spending any more resources on the allegations, according to a Sullivan County grand jury report issued this week. Shortly after taking office in 2009, Booher publicly called for an investigation into information given to him by state election officials that he said indicated about 100 felons fraudulently registered, were registered still, and voted in the county — some going back as far as the early 1960s.

Newsweek ranks MTSU among top five health universities (Daily News Journal)

Newsweek’s 2011 College Rankings puts MTSU fifth among the schools in the country that are health-minded and “inclined to healthier pursuits.” The top five schools ranked as health-conscious institutions, starting with No. 1: Harvard University, Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, Princeton University, and Middle Tennessee State University.

Attorney General Pushes to Regulate Dangerous Webpage (WTVF-TV Nashville)

It’s a website linked to prostitution, sex trafficking and murder. Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper says he’s going after the people behind it.

AGs to Backpage.com: Get Rid of “Adult” Ads (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

The attorneys general of 46 states, including Tennessee, say an online classified site isn’t doing enough to prevent sex trafficking using its ads. To enter the adult services section of Backpage-dot-com, users have to agree to a disclaimer that says they will report any suspected illegal activity–including human trafficking–to the proper authorities.

State high court hears debate over appeal (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Satterfield)

A Sullivan County death penalty case now 26 years old is putting to the test the standard for when a prosecutor-turned-judge should step aside. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments from both sides in the debate over whether Leonard Edward Smith should get an unprecedented fourth shot at escaping death for the 1984 slaying of Sullivan County grocer Novella Webb in a fatal robbery spree.

Voters to get ID lessons (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

Educational efforts to focus on ballot law State election officials are planning an intensive effort to educate voters about a new law mandating they have a proper photo identification card to cast ballots in next year’s elections. So is the Tennessee Democratic Party, hoping to counter what state Chairman Chip Forrester says is an effort by the Republican-controlled state Legislature to suppress Democratic turnout in the elections of 2012 and beyond.

Republicans Eye New Knox County District (Metro Pulse)

The Republicans are busily redrawing legislative districts and Knox County is likely to have some major changes. It is likely that a new district will be formed going west from downtown. State Rep. Joe Armstrong, an African-American Democrat, has an underpopulated district.

Redistricting: Latest plan splits Blackman Farm (Daily News Journal)

The Rutherford County Commission’s Redistricting Committee has pitted Blackman Farm homeowners across the street from each other in different commission districts in a proposed district map. The 11-member committee unanimously proposed a plan Wednesday placing the west side of Blaze Drive in Commissioner Trey Gooch’s District 20 and the east side of the neighborhood in Commissioner Matthew Young’s District 16.

Aegis settles with Zelenik’s ad agency (Nashville Post/Nannie)

Aegis Sciences Corp. has reached a settlement with Bright Media Inc. to set the record straight on advertisements the ad agency created with Lou Ann Zelenik as part of a 2010 congressional campaign in Tennessee’s 6th District. The ads made by Virginia-based Bright Media had asserted that drug testing service Aegis had conspired with Zelenik’s opponent, current U.S. Rep. Diane Black, to obtain contracts with the state of Tennessee. Financial terms of the settlement are confidential, according to a statement from Seigenthaler Public Relations, which is working with MetroCenter-based Aegis.

Zelenik: Aegis suit still alive, has merit (Daily News Journal)

Ex-candidate still critical of Black Contrary to a related legal settlement, former Republican congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik is still waging a court battle with U.S. Rep. Diane Black over a campaign ad that aired 2010 during their 2010 primary race. “Some in the news media have been erroneously reporting that a settlement has been reached in the lawsuit that Aegis Sciences Corporation filed against me in an attempt to stifle the free speech rights of my campaign to point out the egregious ethics violations by Diane Black while a state senator benefiting her and her husband’s company,” Zelenik stated in a written release late Tuesday night.

Group presses Fleischmann on voting record (Times Free-Press/Hightower)

Members of Chattanooga Organized for Action plan to attend three of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s town hall meetings today, saying they want answers about the congressman’s stance on new jobs. Chris Brooks, organizer for Chattanooga Organized for Action, the group behind the recall effort on Mayor Ron Littlefield, said four volunteers plan to attend meetings being held at Heritage Park, the John A. Patten Recreation Center and the Electric Power Board community room.

Senator Alexander keynote speaker at dinner (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

US Senator Lamar Alexander was back in East Tennessee on Wednesday night. He delivered the keynote speech at the bar association Supreme Court Dinner at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Corker not worried as FEMA freezes funds (Times Free-Press/Carroll, O’Neill)

Despite high-level warnings to the contrary, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said April’s tornado victims shouldn’t worry about getting long-term disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “I don’t see any way people are going to be left hanging,” he said Wednesday.

FEMA freeze threatens Nashville flood buyouts (Tennessean/Rau)

Nashville victims await action from Congress on FEMA budget woes Dozens of Nashville flood victims could face delays in receiving government buyouts after the Federal Emergency Management Agency placed a freeze on long-term disaster relief spending this week on the heels of Hurricane Irene. Faced with a budget crunch after a rash of natural disasters across the country, FEMA officials said federal assistance to repair damaged property or cover personal losses still would be available to victims of last week’s hurricane.

TVA completes $436M purchase of Mississippi plant (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Valley Authority says it has completed the purchase of a natural gas-fired power plant in northern Mississippi. The deal with Kelson Limited Partnership was adopted by the TVA board Aug. 18 after approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a day earlier.

Regulators Lay Out Details of Pending Brown’s Ferry Inspection (WPLN-Radio)

In about two weeks, a team of more than a dozen experts will arrive at Brown’s Ferry Nuclear Plant to begin a unusually deep inspection. Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say the process will last well into next year—at the very least.

Report: Online job vacancies down in Tennessee (Memphis Business Journal)

Job openings posted online skidded this month in Tennessee, the Conference Board reported Wednesday, continuing a decline that marked the end of the second quarter. The New York business organization said its Help Wanted Online gauge registered a drop of 2,700 online job ads in the state.

Memphis adds 6,400 private-sector jobs in July (Memphis Business Journal)

Memphis joined the majority of the nation’s largest metro areas in adding private-sector jobs in July, according to figures released Wednesday morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bluff City added 6,400 positions in the month, ranking it 44th out of the largest 100 metro areas for raw job creation.

Metro Nashville Hospital Authority plans to cut 46 jobs (Tennessean/Wilemon)

Metropolitan Nashville Hospital Authority will lay off 46 employees and possibly close a neonatal intensive care unit as well as an adult day-care program. The measures are estimated to save $3.4 million.

Veteran journalist named City Paper editor (Nashville Post)

Local media holding company SouthComm Inc. announced Wednesday it has named Steve Cavendish editor of The City Paper. Cavendish is returning home to Nashville, where he began his career at the Nashville Banner, after stints at the St. Petersburg Times, Washington Post, and most recently, the Chicago Tribune.

Memphis City Schools officials see few takers on transfer option (CA/Roberts)

More than 40 percent of students in Memphis City Schools are eligible to transfer to better schools this year, but if history is any indicator, fewer than 5 percent will. In August, the district sent 46,100 eligibility letters to parents with students in low-performing schools.

Sen. Norris Talks School Merger (WHBQ-TV Memphis)

With much of the Norris-Todd bill being erased by Judge Samuel Mays historic merger decision and suburban Memphis looking in to creating separate school districts, the future of Shelby County Schools is still filled with much uncertainty. State Senator Mark Norris joined Fox 13’s Lauren Lee to talk about what to expect going forward.

Budgets, Jobs at Stake in Fight Over Knox County Schools’ Outsourcing Plan (MP)

After a temporary reprieve last spring, Knox County School custodians and their allies are girding themselves to fight the outsourcing of their jobs to a local firm come next year. “At this point, people like us who are concerned about this are just waiting to see what they would pay,” says Lance McCold of Jobs With Justice, a worker advocacy group that has taken up the custodians’ cause.

Knox school manual gets national recognition (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Marcum)

‘Go To 2033’ urban planning manual gets jury award A jury with the International Union of Architects has bestowed a national award on a program developed by a Knox County schoolteacher, Knoxville-area architects and the Metropolitan Planning Commission for teaching urban design and planning principles to eighth-grade students. Suzanne Wedekind, art teacher at West Valley Middle School, will be formally presented this fall with a Special Jury Recognition award from the UIA Architecture & Children Golden Cubes competition for the “Go To 2033” curriculum that she and others developed and is in use in Knox County schools.

Monroe County schools hoping property tax increases (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

Monroe County’s Finance Director said if a proposed property tax doesn’t pass, the effects could be “detrimental.” The budget committee is suggesting a 32 cent increase on property taxes.

August driest month ever in Chattanooga (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Johns)

August was the driest month the Chattanooga area has ever seen. Not just the driest August, but the driest page on any calendar since records were kept starting in 1928. And nobody knows that better than Chattooga County farmer Wesley Thomas. “Yes, we’re in a drought. Yes, it’s extreme,” said Thomas, who raises cattle and grows sorghum and a slew of vegetables.

Meth labs discovered in North Jackson (Jackson Sun)

Jackson man arrested on warrant after fleeing police Jackson police have charged a man on outstanding warrants for multiple drug charges after authorities said he ran from police during a traffic stop in early August. Johnathan Lee Samples, 36, was arrested at his Dalton Drive residence on Tuesday on warrants that charge him with initiation of methamphetamine manufacture, felony possession of drug paraphernalia, tampering with evidence, violation of a drug-free school zone, evading arrest and violation of the seatbelt law, according to a news release.

California: Legislature in California Set to Pass a Dream Act (New York Times)

The California Legislature is poised to pass a law that would allow illegal immigrants to receive state-financed aid for college. Known as the California Dream Act, the bill underscores the ways states are navigating their own way through controversial immigration issues, as the Obama administration has been unable to make headway on plans for an overhaul of immigration laws.

Colorado: In education, money isn’t all (Denver Post)

The amount of funding available for K-12 education in Colorado has led to considerable debate. The Lobato case being heard before the state Supreme Court challenges the constitutionality of our school finance system, and Proposition 103 is a ballot initiative for raising additional state revenues for public schools.

Florida: Florida Shutting ‘Pill Mill’ Clinics (New York Times)

Florida has long been the nation’s center of the illegal sale of prescription drugs: Doctors here bought 89 percent of all the Oxycodone sold in the country last year. At its peak, so many out-of-staters flocked to Florida to buy drugs at more than 1,000 pain clinics that the state earned the nickname “Oxy Express.”

Georgia: Georgia Work$ jobs program holds lessons for Obama (Stateline)

As he prepares to announce a new set of job-creation proposals next week, President Obama is looking closely at a Georgia program that has found a rare sweet spot in the hyper-partisan world of Washington politics: It is popular with Republicans as well as Democrats, and it has drawn praise from job seekers as well as those who do the hiring. The program, known as Georgia Work$, was started in 2003 and places unemployed Georgia residents into eight-week training programs with interested companies in the hopes that such training stints will lead to full-time employment.

New York: A Blockage on Teacher Evaluations (New York Times)

New York and its teachers’ unions acted in the best interest of the state’s children last year when they agreed to replace a useless teacher evaluation system with a rigorous process that takes student achievement into account and provides clear sanctions for ineffective teachers. But a dispute over regulatory language has landed the two sides in court.

Washington: Book-Loving City Forgoes Free Ones for a Week (New York Times)

The sun streaks across the 10-day forecast here, and its timing could not be better. After all, one of the city’s most important refuges is closed because of budget cuts.

OPINION

James Bassham: TEMA official says be prepared (Weakley County News)

Tennessee has experienced two years of unprecedented natural disasters. Despite an institutional memory reaching back more than 40 years, the state’s emergency management agencies have never faced the series of emergencies as large as those that transpired between May of 2010 and May of 2011.

Free-Press Editorial: Tighten Tennessee lottery scholarship rules (TFP)

Lawmakers in Nashville are considering some long-overdue restrictions on the granting of lottery-funded scholarships in Tennessee. They really don’t have much choice, because on the current trajectory, lottery funds are expected to be depleted to the state-mandated minimum within 13 years, according to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Editorial: Cuts target the vulnerable (Commercial Appeal)

When the priorities are set by the comfortable, it’s not hard to guess who the outcasts will be A worst-case scenario drawn up by Tennessee officials offers disturbing clues about what life could be like when the federal government begins to slash spending to reduce the budget deficit. With trillions of dollars to trim, there’s not much hope that the deficit can be cut by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.

Editorial: State smart to cut new pathway to bachelor’s (Daily News Journal)

Every year, getting a bachelor’s degree becomes noticeably more costly for those students wishing to pursue higher education in the state of Tennessee. Some are simply priced out of higher ed, while others take on so much student loan debt that they’re financially burdened as soon as the step off a college campus.

Columnist: In the shadow of Birch: A modest proposal (Nashville Post)

Yesterday afternoon, former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice A. A. Birch laid in repose at the Metro Courthouse. Birch was the only Tennessee judge to serve at every level of the local and state judiciary, eventually becoming the first African American to serve on the state’s highest court.

Times Editorial: Study of I-24 could be useful (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Interstate 24 is both a blessing and a curse to those who travel it through Chattanooga. When traffic moves smoothly, it provides a direct and efficient connection to the central city and to commercial, industrial and residential areas adjacent to it.

Free-Press Editorial: Chattanooga-made Passats start to flow (Times Free-Press)

There has been a series of exciting moments locally since the initial announcement that Chattanooga was chosen as the site for a billion-dollar Volkswagen manufacturing plant. The latest good news is that VW has begun shipping out about 350 sparkling new automobiles from Chattanooga every day! You may have seen the picture on the front page of Wednesday’s Times Free Press showing scores of new VW Passat sedans parked at the local plant, ready for shipping throughout our country.

Times Editorial: In the grip of drought (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Earlier this year, one had to look toward Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and other points west to see the effects of drought. No more.

Free-Press Editorial: Tornadoes, Irene and federal relief funds (Times Free-Press)

After tornadoes ravaged Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia in April, the federal government began providing disaster-relief funds for various purposes in this region. For instance, Tennessee got more than $7 million in individual assistance grants, and Georgia got nearly $5 million.

Guest columnist: Oversight, good communication are vital (Tennessean)

Fairs represent all that is good about our communities: agriculture and education, competition and celebrations, history and traditions, entertainment and exhibits. In order to enjoy all of these segments of a fair, the fairgoer must feel safe and secure while attending our events.

Guest columnist: Stage collapse elevates safety questions (Tennessean)

Weather was unknown factor, but having union workers helps, too Pete Winer wrote in a thoughtful letter to The Tennessean following the Indiana State Fair tragedy (“Take steps to prevent stage-collapse tragedies,” Aug. 20) that crews that travel with road shows such as Sugarland should have training and mandatory credentialing in hanging lights and scenery suspended over stages, performers’ heads and audience seating. I certainly agree with him, but could not keep my hands off the keyboard to enlighten not only Mr. Winer, but the public in general as to how it should be, and is already being done.

Frank Cagle: The Republican Party’s Ever-Shrinking Tent (Metro Pulse)

Ronald Reagan’s “Big Tent” Republican Party is getting smaller every day. One wonders who the national Republican leaders expect to vote for them now and in the future. Richard Nixon traded the Party of Lincoln for votes from former segregationists with his Southern strategy.

  • Eda Bramlett

    Helpful analysis . I was enlightened by the info – Does anyone know where I can get ahold of a fillable a form version to complete ?