September 21 TN News Digest

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

Haslam to appear on NBC education program (Tennessean/Hubbard)

Gov. Bill Haslam is appearing Monday on NBC’s Education Nation, hosted by Brian Williams. Haslam is among at least 10 governors who will be in New York next week speaking on national education issues.

Marathon makes $1M investment in Brownsville (Jackson Sun)

Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty on Tuesday joined with local officials in welcoming Marathon Heater, Inc. to Brownsville. The company’s $1 million investment will create 60 jobs during the next three years Marathon Heater is a leading manufacturer of industrial-grade heating elements and temperature sensors, according to a news release from the state.

Power Academy model of success, earns state honor for progress (CA/Locker)

Power Center Academy, a Memphis public charter school in the Hickory Hill area, was named the middle school winner Tuesday night in the first SCORE Prizes, a statewide public school competition by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education. The prize recognizes one elementary, one middle and one high school plus a school district that have done the most to improve student achievement in spite of challenges, according to the Tennessee education reform organization founded and chaired by former U.S. senator Bill Frist of Nashville.

Maryville City Schools wins top state reform award (Knox. News-Sentinel/McCoy)

More than 75 Maryville City Schools administrators and classroom teachers were on hand Tuesday when the district won the top prize in the first year of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education’s educational reform award. The award recognizes the elementary, middle, high school and district in Tennessee that has the most dramatically improved student achievement despite challenges.

Tennessee business climate ranked fourth best in U.S. (Nashville Biz Journal)

Tennessee has been ranked as having the country’s fourth-best business climate. Texas took the top spot on Development Counsellors International’s “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing” survey. The survey is conducted every three years.

Middle TN companies receive solar grants (Tennessean/Gonzalez)

The Tennessee Solar Institute on Tuesday announced almost $1.6 million in new solar installation grants for 17 projects proposed by Tennessee businesses. The grants include more than $700,000 for four projects in Davidson County and two in Williamson County.

Hamblen woman charged with ‘doctor shopping’ (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

A Hamblen County woman has been charged in Hawkins County with TennCare fraud involving “doctor shopping,” using TennCare to go to multiple doctors in a short time period to obtain prescriptions for a controlled substance. The state and the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office arrested Melissa Carpenter, 41, of Morristown and charged her with one count of fraudulently using TennCare.

Hamblen Co. woman arrested for ‘doctor shopping’ in Hawkins Co. (Herald-Courier)

A Hamblen County woman is charged in Hawkins County with TennCare fraud involving “doctor shopping,” or using TennCare to go to multiple doctors in a short time period to obtain prescriptions for a controlled substance. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), along with Hamblen County Sheriff’s officers, today announced the arrest of Melissa Carpenter, 41, of Morristown.

Hamblen County woman charged with “doctor shopping” (WVLT-TV Knoxville)

A Hamblen County woman is charged in Hawkins County with “doctor shopping” said The Tennessee Office of Inspector General. Melissa Carpenter, 41, of Morristown has been charged with TennCare Fraud. She is accused of visitng mulitple doctors within a 30-day period and obrtaining prescriptions for Oxycodone.

Read On (Weakley County News)

Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam visited Union City Elementary School Friday to discuss the school’s program, progress and needs with teachers, administrators and school board members. At the close of her visit, Mrs. Haslam, who is supporting a reading initiative in her official capacity, read to third-graders in the school library.

THP, trucking industry cooperate in education (Associated Press)

Tennessee state troopers are working with the state trucking industry group on an education program for drivers and companies. The Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Tennessee Trucking Association conduct a roadside inspection event Wednesday at the Coffee County scales in Manchester.

Nashville State moves closer on purchase of Dillard’s building (Tenn./Cass)

Nashville State Community College moved toward closing on its purchase of the former Dillard’s building at Hickory Hollow Mall after the state gave its final blessing this week. The college’s satellite campus could open there in a year, the Tennessee Board of Regents said Tuesday.

MTSU to start tying tornado warnings to AccuWeather (Daily News Journal)

Change expected to alert more imminent threats Effective Oct. 21, MTSU will be using AccuWeather instead of the National Weather Service cues to sound warning sirens on campus. About four years ago, MTSU officials established a “building runners” program on campus whereby select people in every building made the rounds during a tornado warning alert — knocked on office and classroom doors, and suggested that everyone go to their designated “safer places” in their buildings.

Democrats’ Jobs Tour Hears Concerns on Regulations, Job Training (TN Report)

Democratic legislators launched a statewide “jobs tour” in Memphis on Monday, and they heard a lot of the same topics of concern from businesses that Republicans are hearing — like regulations and job training. And for good measure, there was a firm opinion voiced about Amazon.com.

TN lawmakers grill courts’ disciplinary body (Tennessean/Gee)

The commission responsible for investigating ethical complaints against judges is fighting for its life in hearings before a special committee of the Tennessee General Assembly this week. It’s the second year in a row that the Court of the Judiciary has been called before lawmakers to face critics who believe legitimate complaints have been ignored by the 16-member commission that includes 10 judges and conducts most of its work behind closed doors.

Lawmakers Questioning How State Disciplines Judges (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

A committee of state lawmakers raised concerns today over conflicts of interest and transparency from the board that handles ethics complaints against judges. Some lawmakers want big changes to Tennessee’s Court of the Judiciary, arguing it’s too lenient. State Senator Mae Beavers has pushed to give lawmakers control over who sits on the Court of the Judiciary.

Memphis City Council rejects voters’ say on tax increases (C. Appeal/Maki)

Proposal would have made it more difficult to raise rate for property owners Just a few months after adopting a “one-time” 18-cent property tax increase, the City Council voted Tuesday against letting voters decide whether it should be more difficult for the council to raise property taxes. The council voted 7-6 Tuesday against holding a referendum to ask voters if a two-thirds majority of the council should be needed to approve a property tax increase that is higher than the percentage increase of inflation or population growth.

Alexander to step down from Senate GOP leadership post (City Paper/Woods)

Sen. Lamar Alexander announced Tuesday he will resign his Republican leadership position in January, promising to be “more, not less aggressive on major issues.” In a speech on the Senate floor, Alexander, who is 71, also noted that he plans to run for a third, six-year term in 2014.

Alexander may gain power in leadership exit (Tennessean/Bewley)

Sen. Lamar Alexander’s decision to resign his Senate leadership role could give the veteran lawmaker more power, not less, and help him advocate for issues important to Tennessee, analysts say. Alexander announced on the Senate floor Tuesday that he will step down as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference in January to focus on policy priorities.

Sen. Lamar Alexander gives up leadership position (Times Free-Press/Carroll)

When he became the U.S. Senate’s third-ranking Republican in 2007, Lamar Alexander swapped some of his independence for a seat at the table. In January, he’ll swap it back.

Lamar Alexander: Giving up party role, gaining freedom to lead (N-S/Collins)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander may be giving up power when he resigns in January from one of the U.S. Senate’s most influential leadership positions, but he figures he’ll get back something possibly more important: His independence. The two-term senator from Maryville announced Tuesday he will step down in January as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference to focus more on the issues he cares about most.

Alexander gives up Republican leadership position in Senate (C. Appeal/Sullivan)

Sen. Lamar Alexander said Tuesday said he plans to step down from his position in the Senate Republican leadership in January in a move he said will “liberate me to spend more time working to achieve results on the issues I care the most about.” The Tennessee Republican also said he will seek re-election in 2014.

Alexander to Relinquish Senate Leadership Post (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander announced this morning he will step down from his position in Republican leadership. He’s spent four years as the Senate Conference chairman, shaping the GOP message on issues.

‘Corrupt’ or a ‘novice’? Two different views of Rep. Stephen Fincher (CA/Sullivan)

Republican members of the Federal Election Commission Tuesday released their explanation of why they refused to endorse a five-figure penalty against the Stephen Fincher for Congress Committee. The Republicans said the requirements for reporting campaign loans “is an issue that trips up many candidates, especially novice candidates who may have unprofessional staff or volunteers assisting with their administrative obligations.”

Tenn. lawmaker resuscitates man in airport (Associated Press)

A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee said the retired obstetrician/gynecologist performed CPR and used a defibrillator to resuscitate a man who collapsed at an airport in Charlotte. Roe spokeswoman Amanda Little told the Kingsport Times-News that Roe was on his way to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday morning and was getting a connecting flight in Charlotte, N.C., when an unidentified man collapsed.

New site selected for veterans nursing home (Leaf Chronicle)

County picks spot behind Walmart on Ft. Campbell Blvd. County administrators offered a new site for the proposed Tennessee State Veterans Nursing Home to a county commission committee Tuesday afternoon.

Government Shutdown Possible Over Disaster Aid (Wall Street Journal)

Congress once again found itself embroiled on Tuesday in a display of brinksmanship and the threat of a government shutdown, despite the public’s recoiling against such maneuvering earlier this year. Congress needs to pass a funding bill before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, but Republicans and Democrats are at odds over the sensitive issue of how to pay for disaster relief.

In Cuts to Health Programs, Experts See Difficult Task in Protecting Patients (NYT)

President Obama and some members of Congress assert that, in cutting Medicare and Medicaid, they can whack health care providers while protecting beneficiaries. But experts say it is not so simple.

Storage yards cleaned up at Y-12 in Oak Ridge (Associated Press)

The Y-12 National Security Complex says it has cleaned up the last of 16 highly contaminated storage yards at the uranium processing facility at Oak Ridge. The cleanup of the 1.5-acre, decades-old storage yard for unneeded materials and chemicals was expected to take up to two years and $4.2 million, according to a Y-12 news release on Tuesday.

Watts Bar disaster drill scheduled today (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sohn)

Don’t be alarmed to see radiological monitoring teams scurrying around the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant today. About 1,000 Tennessee Valley Authority and state emergency responders in McMinn, Meigs and Rhea counties will conduct an emergency preparedness exercise in and around the plant.

Proposed GM deal has 1,700 new Spring Hill jobs (Associated Press/Poovey)

As General Motors Co. plans to create more than 1,700 new jobs at a Tennessee assembly plant where about 2,000 employees were laid off two years ago, the mayor of Spring Hill said the turnaround seems too good to be true. “It’s almost like Alice in Wonderland falling into a rabbit hole,” Spring Hill Mayor Michael Dinwiddie said Tuesday.

GM proposal calls for 1,700 jobs, two vehicles at Spring Hill (Nash Biz Journal)

A proposed agreement between General Motors Co. and the United Auto Workers union calls for the return of 1,700 jobs to the company’s plant in Spring Hill, The Associated Press is reporting. The AP, citing a summary of the deal released by the UAW, also reports that the plant will make two midsize cars.

GM Work Bound for Mexico to Head for Spring Hill Instead (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

General Motors plans to divert work that was headed to Mexico and build two mid-size cars in Spring Hill. The assembly lines will restore 1,700 jobs in Tennessee.

Gibson raid ignites passion (Tennessean/Wadhwani)

A month after federal agents raided Gibson Guitar on suspicions the company illegally imported timber from Indian rainforests, the issues raised by the action continue to galvanize — and polarize — conservative activists, environmentalists and industry groups. But thus far federal officials have been largely silent, shedding little additional light on the case since the Aug. 24 raid because it is an ongoing probe.

Proponents of Lacey Act push back against Gibson (Nashville Business Journal)

A coalition of environmental groups and wood-product companies are fighting against the public outcry that has erupted in recent weeks since Nashville-based Gibson Guitar Co . was thrust into a political battle over a 100-year-old environmental law. Those groups, many of whom lobbied on behalf of a 2008 change to the Lacey Act, want to ensure that the logging and exporting of certain wood, like the ebony used in Gibson’s iconic guitars, remains restricted.

Feds won’t target unwitting owners of illegal wood (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Federal officials say that people who unknowingly possess musical instruments made with illegal wood products do not face prosecution. In a letter to Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, officials with the U.S. Justice Department and the Interior Department say enforcement efforts are focused on those “removing protected species from the wild and making a profit by trafficking in them.”

Japan’s recovery felt in TN (Tennessean/Allyn)

Opportunities open in autos, solar, wind Six months after an earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, more than half of the country’s tsunami-stricken manufacturing sector has recovered, and Japanese auto and solar power companies may expand in Tennessee. That’s according to Hiroshi Sato, the Nashville-based consul general of Japan, who said Tennessee-Japanese business opportunities are improving despite supply disruptions in key Japanese economic sectors such as autos and manufacturing of LCD screens.

Sea Ray dealers keeping an eye on politics, economics (News-Sentinel/Huotari)

Economics and politics are as important to boat dealers right now as parts and inventory. Boat sellers from around the world attending Sea Ray’s annual dealer meeting in Knoxville this week say they are closely watching the U.S. economy and 2012 presidential election as they try to predict sales in the coming year.

Hamilton County Commission to revisit school funding issue (TFP/Haman)

With a new superintendent at the helm of Hamilton County Schools, a county commissioner plans to revisit a controversial resolution that gave the commission control of an education treasure chest. Chester Bankston said he now wants commissioners to return to the schools the key to payment-in-lieu-of-taxes money earmarked for education.

Georgia: Georgia seeks waiver of No Child Left Behind rules (Associated Press)

Georgia education officials are seeking a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act and putting forward a new plan to measure the performance of the state’s schools on more than just test scores. State School Superintendent John Barge and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson were set to submit Georgia’s waiver request on Tuesday to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in Washington.

Texas: Third Stay of Execution (Associated Press)

Cleve Foster, who for the third time this year was hours away from execution for the rape-slaying of a woman, Nyaneur Pal, nearly 10 years ago, was granted another reprieve by the United States Supreme Court on Tuesday. Unlike his previous trips to the death house, this time the reprieve came before he was served his requested final meal, which included two fried chickens and a five-gallon bucket of peaches.

OPINION

Charlie Daniel Political Cartoon: “Smile” (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Editorial: Narrowing focus of sex offender ban would make policy stronger (N-S)

The Knox County library system has barred anyone on Tennessee’s sex offender’s registry from entering any of its branches. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, in consultation with library officials, came up with the policy after a state law allowing restrictions on sex criminals took effect July 1.

Editorial: More politics won’t create jobs, focus in Nashville might (Jackson Sun)

State Democratic Party leaders were in West Tennessee on Monday and Tuesday touting a jobs tour that will move across the state during the week. A stated goal of the group was to inspire Democrats to develop ideas that could lead to bipartisan legislation to help create jobs.

Editorial: Dairy farm upgrade to boost MTSU ag sciences (Daily News Journal)

Dairy farming used to mean getting up long before the sun and hand-milking cows. That was how many a Rutherford County family made a living in what was once a dairy farming community.

Free-Press Editorial: Chattanooga’s 10,000th Volkswagen (Times Free-Press)

It’s always fun to mark milestones in our individual lives and in the economy. After Chattanooga spent years seeking to attract big economic development investments, it was fantastic news when Germany-based Volkswagen decided to build its billion-dollar car-manufacturing plant at Chattanooga’s Enterprise South industrial park.

Frank Munger: Shrinking ORNL budgets to hit subcontractors, too (News-Sentinel)

The fiscal storm clouds have been on the horizon for a while, so it wasn’t necessarily a shock when Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason announced plans to eliminate up to 350 jobs. The jobs cut will take place over the next few months, initially through a voluntary separation program and then through involuntary departures (layoffs) as needed.

Guest columnist: Extend transportation program to avert disaster (Tennessean)

“Houston — we have a problem.” When considering the peril Americans face as a result of our deteriorating transportation infrastructure, I am reminded of Astronaut Jim Lovell’s famous words during the ill-fated Apollo 13 space mission of 1970.

Times Editorial: A strategy for the postal service (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

The woes of the U.S. Postal Service are well documented. Most recently, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told Congress how technology and changing markets continue to undermine the service’s fiscal stability. The agency lost more than $8 billion last year and could lose even more this year.

Free-Press Editorial: Deficit-ridden Postal Service needs reform (Times Free-Press)

When our Constitution was being written in “horse and buggy days,” our Founding Fathers provided for a national postal service. Well, mail demands expanded as population and commerce grew.