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September 10 TN News Digest

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

Gov. Haslam Announces Civil War Driving Trail Enhancement Grant (Biz Clarksville)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam joined state and local officials on September 8 to announce a $818,880 transportation enhancement grant award to the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development for Phase III of the Civil War Driving Trail. The Civil War Driving Trail is a multi-phased program that has established a statewide network of directional and historical signage to be used in conjunction with the Tennessee Civil War map/guide and applicable map/guides developed by individual localities.

‘We’re all True Blue’ (Daily News Journal)

Spectacular gala celebrates 100 years of MTS The Mirabella Grand Ballroom at Embassy Suites Murfreesboro – Hotel & Conference Center was filled was filled to the gills with MTSU blue Friday night. More than 1,200 people filled the largest venue in Murfreesboro for an event worthy of a 100-year birthday party for MTSU — its Centennial Blue Tie Gala.

Damage fails to qualify Lee as official disaster (Times Free-Press/Smith)

Tropical Storm Lee closed schools, damaged homes and streets and cut off power for more than 87,000 area homes and businesses, but that may not be enough to qualify the region for federal disaster assistance, local officials say. Most of the storm’s roughly $3.5 million in destruction was concentrated in Hamilton County and, more specifically, was limited to downed power lines and poles, said Bill Tittle, chief of Hamilton County emergency management.

Wacker Polysilicon growth eyed for support (Cleveland Daily Banner)

Wacker Polysilicon North America is one step closer to receiving additional state funds to help the company expand its $1 billion investment by another half-billion dollars. The State Building Commission approved $5.2 million from the state in direct appropriations and $29.4 million in bonds.

Tennessee board approves $346.2M in funding for two industrial plants (CA/Locker)

The State Building Commission signed off Thursday on $346.2 million in state taxpayer funding to help build two large industrial plants in Clarksville and Cleveland, Tenn., plus $7 million for the Port of Cates Landing on the Mississippi River in Lake County. The $245.9 million in total state funding for the $1.2 billion Hemlock Semiconductor plant in Clarksville and $100.3 million for the $1.1 billion Wacker Chemie polysilicon production plant in Cleveland — plus a previously approved $100 million for a new Electrolux plant in Memphis — represent the first time state government has spent money on the actual construction and equipping of plants.

Haslam hosts fundraiser for GOP legislators (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

Republican state legislators plan a fundraiser at the governor’s residence next month with admission prices ranging from $50,000 for a package deal to $2,500 for an individual. Gov. Bill Haslam and his wife, Crissy, will serve as hosts for the Oct. 3 event, which will include an afternoon reception at Conservation Hall and evening dinner in the upstairs area of the governor’s actual residence.

Tenn. revenues beat expectations by $18M in August (Associated Press)

General fund revenue collections have started the new Tennessee budget year $18 million above expectations. Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes said in a release Friday that the August figures are “good news,” but cautioned that national economic indicators indicate a slow recovery is under way and that federal budget issues still need to be resolved.

TDOT chief: Changes aren’t environmental retreat (Associated Press/Schelzig)

The Tennessee Department of Transportation chief says staff changes he is making don’t signal a retreat from sweeping reforms implemented by former Gov. Phil Bredesen. Commissioner John Schroer, responding to an Associated Press report, said Friday that it would be a “leap” to conclude that he’s de-emphasizing environmental concerns after promoting his chief engineer to become his deputy.

Kingsport man ordered to pay more than $460,000 in TennCare case (Times-News)

A registered Kingsport sex offender must pay more than $460,000 in restitution — about $390,000 in the next two weeks — after pleading guilty to TennCare fraud and theft charges in exchange for 15 years on probation. Danny Anderson, 53, of 445 Roller St., pleaded guilty to theft over $10,000 and two counts of TennCare fraud, and was sentenced Friday morning in Sullivan County Criminal Court to 15 years on supervised probation.

Illinois’ Durbin to Haslam: ‘Widespread concern’ over voter ID law (CP/Garrison)

High-ranking U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., has expressed “widespread concern” to Gov. Bill Haslam over Tennessee’s controversial new election law that requires citizens display photo identification to vote, suggesting it could disenfranchise certain demographics. Accordingly, Durbin has asked Haslam to “identify the steps your administration is taking” to ensure all Tennesseans can efficiently obtain free photo identification before the next election.

Ramsey Supports Cost-to-Business Estimates for Proposed Legislation (TN Report)

Tennessee House Republicans made a point Thursday of declaring their interest in identifying burdensome regulations they can lift from businesses in the state. In the same vein, the Senate’s top lawmaker wants to add one on government: A requirement that bills under consideration in the General Assembly include an estimate of the costs they’d potentially have on Tennessee employers.

Southerland Holding Out Hope for NE TN Megasite (TN Report)

State Sen. Steve Southerland sounds enthusiastic about the possibility of Upper East Tennessee landing a TVA megasite like the ones taxpayers provided for Volkswagen and Hemlock Semiconductor. But the Morristown Republican’s enthusiasm may be more a matter of a legislator cheerleading than an indication of any substantive action.

Honoring the sacrifices of 9/11 heroes, victims (Jackson Sun)

Friday service in Jackson pays respect State Sen. Lowe Finney chose his words carefully, describing the impact 9/11 had on the lives of every American. “Who among us didn’t sit in front of the television all day that day to see what would happen and to find out the direction of our country?”

Oversight committee votes to dissolve (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Munger)

Rebirth a possibility with new guidelines The Local Oversight Committee’s board of directors voted Friday to dissolve the LOC, at least in its current form, and remake and reshape the 20-year-old organization in the months ahead. The meeting at the Roane County Alliance Building was emotional at times and politely contentious

Blackburn, congressional panel step in on Gibson case (Tennessean/Bewley)

House Republicans, including Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, are seeking an explanation from the Obama administration for its decision to raid the facilities of Nashville-based Gibson Guitar Corp. last month. “It is hard to conclude anything other than the fact that your agencies and this Administration are actively pursuing regulatory and legal policies that discourage job growth in the United States and encourage shipping those very same jobs overseas,” Blackburn and three other Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote in a letter to the heads of the Interior Department, Justice Department and Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday.

Rep. Black criticizes Obama job speech as ‘political’ (Daily News Journal)

President Barack Obama’s speech proposing Congress pass a $447 billion American Jobs Act failed to influence U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin. “I think what I heard was a political speech, frankly,” Black told reporters covering Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District during a phone conference this morning.

Party Line Reactions to Obama’s Speech (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee’s congressional delegation responded mostly along party lines to President Obama’ s speech on jobs and the economy. Nashville Democratic congressman Jim Cooper said the president made a good, high energy speech with ideas that will get America back on track.

Employers Say Jobs Plan Won’t Lead to Hiring Spur (New York Times)

The dismal state of the economy is the main reason many companies are reluctant to hire workers, and few executives are saying that President Obama’s jobs plan — while welcome — will change their minds any time soon. That sentiment was echoed across numerous industries by executives in companies big and small on Friday, underscoring the challenge for the Obama administration as it tries to encourage hiring and perk up the moribund economy.

Critics say TVA operates in secrecy (Tennessean/Paine)

TVA’s board gathered privately the week before it voted last month to approve finishing a long-shelved nuclear reactor despite the federal Sunshine law that calls for openness. Out of nine members, six took part in a tour and lunch together at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Bellefonte nuclear site in Alabama, 110 miles southeast of Nashville.

Windsor Health to add 200 jobs in Brentwood (Tennessean/Ward)

Windsor Health Plans is planning to add 200 new jobs in Brentwood over the next few years through a consolidation of its parent’s U.S. Medicare Advantage plan operations here. With the move, Windsor will now be the operations hub for owner Munich Re’s Medicare Advantage plans across multiple U.S. states, including those that have roughly 66,000 members overall that previously had been managed by Sterling Health.

JR Global building new plant in Kingston (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Willett)

The decision by JR Global Manufacturing Inc. to build a new manufacturing facility on Gallaher Road in Kingston brings the company founders literally back to where they started. The new 5,000 square-foot building that will be home to phase one of JR Global’s new headquarters sits just a stones throw from the family farm where founders James and Richard Owens grew up.

Commission To Pick School Board Members (Memphis Daily News)

Shelby County Commissioners take the final step Monday, Sept. 12, to the creation of a new countywide school board that will take office in three weeks. The commission meets at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St. On the agenda is the appointment of seven members to the new 23-member board agreed to by all sides in the schools consolidation lawsuit settlement.

Schools Q&A Points to New Merger Issues (Memphis Daily News)

With a schools consolidation planning commission and a new countywide school board set to convene next month, some of the very specific issues of the merger are creating their own political gravity. The issues are affecting the lingering differences over the general idea of consolidating the two school systems.

Sumner County Education Association, Schools Headed to Court Again (WPLN)

The Sumner County teacher’s union has again sued the district. It’s the second lawsuit this year.

Committee to make recommendation for school board redistricting (NS/McCoy)

The committee in charge of redistricting Knox County’s nine school board districts has set a meeting to vote on which plan they will recommend to their respective boards. On Thursday, the board saw revised versions of the four plans developed by Tim Kuhn, manager of the geographic information services for the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission, and began discussing the next steps in the process.

Science future (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Higgins)

Bradley County and Cleveland high school students thinking ahead to colleges and careers will have plenty of help this school year. Next week, 11th- and 12th-grade students from Bradley Central, Walker Valley and Cleveland high schools can take part in a countywide college fair at Lee University.

Woodson encourages school officials, advocates to continue efforts (NS/McCoy)

Knox County was cool with education reform before it was cool, former state senator Jamie Woodson told a group of school officials and advocates Friday. “You were big parts of the movement early on.

Rhea officials OK $30.9 million price for school (Times Free-Press/Davis)

Construction of a new Rhea County High School could begin shortly as the county purchase and finance commission and school board have accepted a $30.9 million guaranteed maximum price for the project. The school board approved its necessary resolution during its regular meeting Thursday, and the commission’s resolution is expected to be considered during the commission’s Sept. 20 meeting.

California: Amazon tax compromise approved (Associated Press)

Lawmakers on Friday sent Gov. Jerry Brown a compromise bill that delays California’s effort to force online retailers such as Amazon.com to collect the state’s sales taxes while retailers lobby Congress for national rules governing online sales taxes. The state Assembly approved AB155 on a bipartisan, 59-8 vote in the final hours of this year’s legislative session.

OPINION

Times Editorial: Jobs plan challenges GOP (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Government isn’t capable of wholly eliminating the wholesale joblessness that has stranded 14 million Americans without work in the wake of the worst global financial cataclysm and recession since the Great Depression. But Congress can boost recovery by adopting carefully crafted programs and targeted tax cuts.

Free-Press Editorial: Obama’s latest ‘stimulus’ bill unlikely to help (TFP)

With the U.S. economy sluggish at best and unemployment at 9.1 percent, President Barack Obama has proposed a nearly $450 billion package of borrowing, spending and tax breaks that he says will create jobs. In other words, he wants something that looks a good bit like 2009’s $862 billion federal “stimulus” that has so far added massively to the national debt but not created the jobs that the administration projected.

Editorial: Jobless: the reality (Commercial Appeal)

A small-business owner told a Republican legislative task force on jobs this week that he has had trouble filling a couple of them because people were not qualified or didn’t want to drop their unemployment benefits. That was enough to prompt Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, to wonder aloud whether state lawmakers should repeal a measure adopted in May that extends unemployment compensation from a maximum 79 weeks to 99.

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