September 2 TN News Digest

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

Maury County Getting Second Sekisui Plastics Facility (TN Report)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty recently joined with Sekisui Plastics officials to announce the company’s decision to locate a second manufacturing facility in Mt. Pleasant, Tenn. The Japan-based company will invest $3 million and create 25 new jobs over a four year period.

Haslam says new project helps fossil site (Associated Press)

Gov. Bill Haslam says a new project completes a “monumental effort” to preserve the Gray Fossil Site in Washington County. In a statement released in Nashville, Haslam said a recent $145,000 enhancement grant for the site helps create a unique educational opportunity for those who visit it. The site was unearthed in 2000 by a state crew cutting a road through the property.

State, Local Leaders Tout New ED Direction (Memphis Daily News)

Local economic development leaders told Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam this week that they are ready to make the transition from one five-year economic development to another. And state economic development commissioner Bill Hagerty said the state will remain able to respond to out-of-state prospects for jobs, but will “double down” on its ability to assist existing businesses in the state to expand.

DoH encourages emergency readiness during National Preparedness Month (S-G)

Gov. Bill Haslam has declared September National Preparedness Month in Tennessee, a reminder of the priority the Volunteer State has placed on emergency preparedness. The month marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States offers greater significance for the observance and renews the focus on individual and family planning for emergency situations.

Nashville Preps For National Preparedness Month (WTVF-TV Nashville)

The Volunteer State has been hit hard in the last 15 months by flooding, tornadoes and severe storms. That is all putting a new focus on making sure people are prepared in an emergency.

Local attorney named to Commission on Youth (Daily News Journal)

The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth welcomes Christy C. Sigler, a new member appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam representing the Mid-Cumberland region. Sigler, a native Knoxvillian, practices law in Murfreesboro, specializing in representing juveniles and families in juvenile court.

Murfreesboro attorney joins youth board (Tennessean/Young)

Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Christy C. Sigler to the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth in the Mid-Cumberland region. The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth was created by the Tennessee General Assembly with a primary mission to advocate for improvements in the quality of life for Tennessee children and families.

Chris Barbic leaps at chance to help Tenn’s lowest-performing schools (TN/Young)

Chris Barbic can’t sit still as he talks about his plans for Tennessee’s worst-performing schools. He bounces lightly in his seat, trying to explain the plan he sees so clearly in his mind before he finally grabs a marker and heads to the whiteboard in his office. As the new superintendent of the state’s Achievement School District, Barbic is co-managing five of the state’s lowest-performing schools in Memphis and Chattanooga this year.

Getting around (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Benton)

Three Southeast Tennessee towns are divvying up more than $1 million for nontraditional downtown transportation improvement projects for pedestrians and cyclists, according to officials. Benton, Decatur and Pikeville ewere awarded funding through the Tennessee Department of Transportation this week for projects to make it easier to get around by foot and on bike, officials said.

TennCare expands coverage of smoking cessation products (Tennessean/Williams)

The Bureau of TennCare decided Thursday to follow a TennCare Pharmacy Advisory Committee recommendation to expand its preferred drug list for smoking cessation products and ease the burden some doctors have contended existed prior to the move.TennCare will now expand of its enrollees the preferred drug list to include all unique chemical entities of smoking cessation products, including varenicline, which the pubic recognizes as Chantix.

Flu shots are out there already (Tennessean/Wilemon)

Should people prepare for flu season while it’s still flip-flop weather? Pharmacies are advertising flu shots even as temperatures near 100. Metro will begin offering them on Wednesday, before summer has ended.

Schools get grants to help storm victims (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Chattanooga State Community College and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are among 30 colleges in five states to receive grants to help college students affected by the tornado outbreaks this spring, a news release stated. USA Funds, a nonprofit organization that helps Americans benefit from higher education, awarded $387,000 to higher education institutions in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

Labor Day weekend to put thousands on road (Times Free-Press/O’Neil)

Chattanooga hotels are almost fully booked in preparation for the flood of motorists hopping in their cars and heading toward the Scenic City for Labor Day weekend. “It’s kind of a last hurrah for the season and typically it’s a busy time,” said Bob Doak, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Harwell Forecasts Cuts to Budget, Business Regulations in 2012 (TN Report)

With four months to go before she gavels the House of Representatives back into session, Speaker Beth Harwell says she expects the Legislature to spend next year reining in the state budget and easing regulations on small businesses. Earlier this week, the Haslam administration finished drafting a contingency plan of $4.5 billion in budget cuts the state could make if federal funds to Tennessee were reduced by as much as 30 percent.

Redistricting maps may be under wraps until January (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

While other states have completed redistricting, leaders of the process in Tennessee are just now opening the door to public input and say they may not unveil their plans for new congressional and legislative borders until January. Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester says Republicans are being slow and secretive, counter to their boasts of being efficient and transparent.

Jackson voters split on ID law (Jackson Sun)

Would require photo ID’s in 2012 Jackson voters rendered split opinions on a new law requiring voters to bring valid photo identification to the polls in 2012. Some say the new law has been a long time coming, but others say added requirements will further discourage minority and other voters from casting ballots on election day.

Shelby County’s infant mortality rate stirs plea (Commercial Appeal/Warren)

Luttrell calls on churches to help save babies; 63 have died this year, 22 in Frayser Sixty-three babies have died before reaching the age of 1 so far this year in Shelby County. At a news conference Thursday, county Mayor Mark Luttrell said the area’s infant-mortality rate is an ongoing crisis.

Sullivan County explores electronic monitoring of some inmates (Times-News)

Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson and District Attorney Barry Staubus, along with others from their offices, got a glimpse Thursday of how an electronic monitoring system could be used to track inmates ordered to serve sentences at home rather than in the county jail. Afterward, Anderson said the concept of house arrest — for nonviolent offenders — definitely has merit.

Rep. Fleischmann quizzed about votes (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Carroll)

As U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann wrapped up the day’s third “town hall” meeting and opened the floor to questions, two generations challenged their congressman. The older man began with a little praise. Bob Strange, a 79-year-old Lookout Valley man whose business card says “retired,” identified himself as a conservative Republican and said he voted for Fleischmann in last year’s elections.

Protesters picket local delegation offices (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Flory)

A group of protesters brought their pro-jobs message to U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. and other Republican politicians on Thursday. Approximately two dozen people gathered outside the Howard H. Baker Jr. Courthouse building, where they wielded posters and chanted slogans, urging the GOP to focus on creating jobs rather than helping corporations.

FEMA freezes $30.4 million in Nashville buyouts (Nashville Business Journal)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is withholding $30.4 million in buyout packages stemming from the May 2010 flood. FEMA notified Nashville Mayor Karl Dean of the indefinite hold Thursday. According to a news release from the city, the funds will be delayed until Congress restores FEMA’s funding, which has been hit by several recent natural disasters, most recently Hurricane Irene.

Dean to Congress: Restore $30M in frozen FEMA flood dollars (City Paper)

With the Federal Emergency Management Agency freezing previously approved funds following Hurricane Irene, Mayor Karl Dean is urging congress to restore $30.4 million in dollars that had been designated for Nashville’s flood buyout program. On Thursday, FEMA officials notified Dean that $30.4 million in federal funds are on hold indefinitely for the city’s three remaining federal home buyout packages, a plan implemented following Nashville’s May 2010 flood.

Claims Flood Insurance Fund (Wall Street Journal)

Repeated Losses by Some Homeowners Erode Finances of Expiring FEMA Program Connie Rose bought a house on North Carolina’s Outer Banks in 2002 that she knew had been flooded before. So she purchased flood insurance from a government program to cover damages from future storms.

U.S. Is Set to Sue a Dozen Big Banks Over Mortgages (New York Times)

The federal agency that oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is set to file suits against more than a dozen big banks, accusing them of misrepresenting the quality of mortgage securities they assembled and sold at the height of the housing bubble, and seeking billions of dollars in compensation. The Federal Housing Finance Agency suits, which are expected to be filed in the coming days in federal court, are aimed at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, among others, according to three individuals briefed on the matter.

New rules mean big changes for coal plants (Tennessean/Groppe, Bewley)

Some predict higher electric bills, job losses Some say Tennesseans could face higher electric bills, power shortages and job losses when a series of new or anticipated federal regulations hits coal-fired power plants in the coming months and years. Others argue the changes could lead to a cleaner environment, fewer health problems and small increases in power rates.

TVA makes ‘top utilities’ list (Tennessean/McClain)

Site Selection magazine has named its annual Top Utilities in Economic Development and the Tennessee Valley Authority made the list. Top utilities in alphabetical order were: Alabama Power, Birmingham, Ala.; Ameren, St. Louis; Duke Energy, Plainfield, Ind., and Charlotte, N.C.; Entergy Corp., New Orleans; FirstEnergy, Akron, Ohio; Georgia Power, Atlanta; Hoosier Energy, Bloomington, Ind.; Hydro-Québec, Montréal, Québec, Canada; and the TVA.

MemphisED expanding team (Commercial Appeal/Bailey)

New name, new approach for job-creating initiative The public/private initiative that has helped create 13,316 jobs the past four years in Memphis and Shelby County is changing names and greatly expanding its leadership team. The new Memphis Shelby Growth Alliance is replacing MemphisED, the economic development arm of Memphis Fast Forward’s four-part strategy for making Memphis and Shelby County more prosperous.

Teacher eval steps sparking complaint (Daily News Journal)

Board to ask state to rethink process The Rutherford County Board of Education will be asking the state to re-evaluate and make modifications to a new teacher performance evaluation adopted earlier this year. Board members said they have heard complaints from teachers and administrators alike over the process.

Some parents leery of Memphis City Schools transfer options (C. Appeal/Roberts)

Say alternate schools often aren’t an improvement One reason few Memphis City Schools families are not transferring out of failing schools is because the options look worse. Five of the seven school choices that parent Tom Brown received last week from MCS have lower test scores than Cordova Middle, the high-priority school that federal law says his child shouldn’t have to attend.

Schools Consolidation Opponents Differ on Next Step (Memphis Daily News)

Shelby County Schools board members meet Thursday, Sept. 8, to make selections to a schools consolidation planning commission and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam expected to announce his selection by the end of this week. The move to bring the planning commission to life ended another week in the evolving discussion about schools consolidation.

Luttrell makes picks to school merger transition panel (C. Appeal/McMillin)

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell chose three Memphians and two suburban residents as his five picks to serve on the commission that will create a transition plan for merging the county’s two school systems. His picks, pending approval by the Shelby County Commission, mean that more than half of the members have been selected for the 21-member team charged by the new Norris-Todd state law with developing a plan for consolidating Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools by the 2013-14 school year.

Luttrell Makes Picks for Consolidation Planning Group (Memphis Daily News)

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has picked his five choices for the schools consolidation planning commission: two higher-education officials, a corporate attorney, an Episcopal priest heading BRIDGES USA and an elementary school principal. Luttrell announced his choices Thursday, Sept. 1. John Smarrelli Jr. is president of Christian Brothers University.

Luttrell Names Appointees to Norris-Todd Planning Commission (Memphis Flyer)

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has named his five designees to the Norris-Todd Planning Commission that will serve in an advisory status to the newly constituted all-county school board as the merger of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools proceeds. The designees are Christine P. Richards, executive vice president of FedEx; John Smarrelli, president of Christian Brothers University; Barbara Roseborough, associate vice president for Academic Affairs at Southwest Tennessee Community College; Jim Boyd, president of Bridges USA; and Louis Padgett, principal of Northaven Elemengary School.

Hamilton County Schools are growing (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Hardy)

Hamilton County Schools have about 42,250 students enrolled this year — the highest figure in nearly a decade. The number is one of the largest enrollment counts ever, Superintendent Rick Smith told a group of business leaders Thursday morning.

Commissioners raise final questions on redistricting (Times Free-Press/Haman)

Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey said Thursday he wants to amend a redistricting plan to move two schools from his district to Commissioner Joe Graham’s. “There’s 12 schools in my district and then he had six,” Mackey said at the commission’s agenda session.

‘Virtual school’ hits enrollment hiccup (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sher)

As many as half of the more than 2,000 students applying to attend the state’s first public online academy have yet to be enrolled some three weeks into the beginning of the privately-operated institution’s school year, officials say. Union County Schools Director Wayne Goforth and officials at K12 Inc., a Herndon, Va., for-profit virtual school company that runs Union County’s Tennessee Virtual Academy, blame problems on a variety of factors.

Man with gun near Smyrna school broke no laws (Gannett)

A man spotted Thursday morning carrying a gun near Stewarts Creek schools in Smyrna was taking his morning walk and broke no laws, Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold said. Two parents and a crossing guard first saw the man walking along Poplar Wood Road between 7 and 7:30 a.m. and reported to a school resource office he was carrying a flashlight and gun on his hip, the sheriff said.

Football game security comes at high cost for Middle TN schools (TN/Hubbard)

Gang threat forces beefed-up security An intimidating, 6-foot-4 Metro police officer stands at the edge of Whites Creek High School’s football field, the Friday night lights glaring down on the crowd. A graduate in a White Sox cap — now a known Disciples gang leader — catches his eye in the bleachers.

Metro principals ask district to pay for game security (Tennessean/Hubbard)

Ticket sales to high school football games used to cover expenses not only for that sport, but for less popular ones as well. But Metro Nashville high school principals recently asked the school district to pay for football game security this season, as fewer fans are willing to pay the $6 admission to attend.

Sparse rain, searing heat left Tennessee bone dry in August (AP/Dickerson)

For Nashville and most of Tennessee, the blistering month of August has left residents pretty parched. At the National Weather Service office in Nashville, meteorologist Bobby Boyd compiled figures that show the capital city got about half the usual August rainfall: 1.78 inches compared with its usual 3.17 inches.

Meth lab discovered in woods (Times-Gazette)

In years past if an illegal substance was being manfactured in the woods, it was probably moonshine. But in today’s world, it’s likely meth.

Texas: For Disabled, Cuts Could Affect Lifelong Improvement (New York Times)

For Milla Powell, a 12-year-old from Austin with cerebral palsy, the little things make all the difference. Massage therapy to ease her tightened muscles.

Vermont: For Governor of Vermont, a Crash Course in Disaster Management (NYT)

After helicoptering into this flood-ravaged town and delivering a pep talk to residents who had been stranded for three days and counting, Gov. Peter Shumlin asked if anyone had questions for him. It took a minute for anyone to speak up, and even then, the queries were polite to the point of apologetic. “I keep pushing for generators,” said Peter Borden, the town’s emergency management coordinator.

OPINION

Greg Johnson: Tenn. among Barron’s best-run states (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

As pandemic fiscal prudence sweeps the globe — or most of it, save Illinois, California, the left side of Congress and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. — Gov. Bill Haslam affirmed his austerity bona fides when he asked state agencies to prepare a plan for a potential 30 percent cut in federal funding. Such budgetary realism helped Tennessee earn a “best” spot in the Aug. 27 cover story “Best and Worst Run States” in Barron’s magazine, the weekly bible of Wall Street.

James Bassham: Responders review turbulent 2010-2011 (Tennessean)

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 2010 and May 2011.

Susan Cooper: Be ready for next big emergency (Tennessean)

Tennessee has seen plenty of disasters in past 10 years Emergencies can happen without warning in communities just like yours, to people like you. Disasters like floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, disease outbreaks, water-main breaks and power outages may affect people for days at a time.

Editorial: Keeping HOPE alive (Commercial Appeal)

The state Senate Lottery Stabilization Task Force has until Dec. 1 to recommend a plan for shoring up the fund that provides scholarships to thousands of Tennessee students. That’s plenty of time to reflect on the reason Tennesseans decided to get into the state lottery business in the first place.

Guest columnist: Postal Service profitable if Congress acts (Tennessean)

“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night … will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds.” For more than 235 years, the U.S. Postal Service has adhered to this unofficial creed.