September 23 TN News Digest

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

Haslam Highlights Tennessee As National Leader In Education Reform (The Chattanoogan)

Governor Bill Haslam delivered remarks on Friday in the East Room of the White House highlighting the state’s role as a national leader in education reform. Governor Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and educators from across the country at the event where President Barack Obama released criteria for states to receive a waiver to the No Child Left Behind legislation.

Gov. Bill Haslam to introduce Obama ahead of key No Child Left Behind briefing (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Collins)

Gov. Bill Haslam’s push for the federal government to let states seek an exemption from performance standards under the No Child Left Behind school reform law has earned him a supporting role at the White House. Haslam will introduce President Barack Obama today at a White House briefing in which the president will offer states guidance on how they can get around some provisions of the decade-old law, a White House official said Thursday.

Don’t Let Officials Shirk Responsibilities by Shrinking from Education Realities: Huffman (TN Report)

State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman delivered blunt facts about delicate issues Thursday at the Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development, like the achievement gap between African-American students and white students in Tennessee. He also made detailed observations about the differences in student performance when ranked by household income.

Tennessee Supreme Court allows murder sentence dismissal to stand (Commercial Appeal/Buser)

A state appeals court this year vacated the conviction and 99-year sentence of Margo Freshwater, and the Tennessee Supreme Court decided Thursday not to wade into the 1966 Shelby County murder case. The high court let stand the ruling in May by the Court of Criminal Appeals that said there was a reasonable probability that jurors may have returned a different judgment had they known Freshwater’s codefendant, Glenn Nash, claimed he was the only shooter.

Boyd retiring from TN Arts Commission (Nashville Business Journal)

Rich Boyd, executive director of the Tennessee Arts Commission, has announced he will retire at the end of January. Boyd has been with the TAC, a state agency that funds and supports arts experiences, for 28 years.

Judiciary Court Could Change (Associated Press/Johnson)

State lawmakers said Wednesday they plan to move forward with proposed changes to the commission that disciplines judges. Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet led two hearings this week concerning the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary.

Should pardoned felons have gun rights? Ex-con who can own arms in Ga. sues Tenn. (Tennessean/Haas)

David Scott Blackwell has repaid his debt to society, by Georgia standards. He served five years in prison for selling drugs. He successfully finished his probation.

TN parties want leadership role in jobs issue (Tennessean/Sisk)

State lawmakers have been vying to show they are on top of the most important issue to Tennesseans — jobs — with a succession of hearings, tours and public forums this summer in Nashville and around the state. Democrats have held a series of public appearances this week in what they are describing as a listening tour meant to gather ideas for fighting Tennessee’s persistently high unemployment rate.

Carr sponsors straw poll at annual fundraiser (Murfreesboro Post)

Attendees at this year’s T-Bones & Politics fundraiser will have a chance to show their support for their favorite Republican Presidential candidate by participating in a presidential straw poll. The poll, which will be certified by the accounting firm Jaques CPA of Murfreesboro, will be the first accountant-certified straw poll this year in Tennessee.

Grant for Roane State Community College could lead to more jobs (WBIR)

More than a million dollars are coming to Roane State Community College and the money could lead to hundreds of new jobs. The federal grant is worth $1.64 million.

US Postal workers seek aid of Tennessee lawmaker (The Leaf-Chronicle)

U.S. Postal Service workers are rallying Tuesday for support of a new bill that they say will help the U.S. Postal Service return to financial stability. The Day of Action to Save America’s Postal Service is a nationwide rally to support House Bill 1351, according to a press release.

Obama rolling back No Child Left Behind (Associated Press)

The Obama administration is offering states a way around provisions of the once-heralded No Child Left Behind law, contending many elements of the Bush-era education initiative have become barriers to learning and that too many schools, even those showing modest progress, risk being labeled as failing. States will be allowed to ask the Education Department to be exempted from some of the law’s requirements if they meet certain conditions.

House passes disaster aid, but Senate Dems object (Associated Press/Hamburg)

With the economy sputtering, the warring factions of Congress have lurched toward gridlock over the usually noncontroversial process of approving disaster aid and keeping the government from shutting down. The GOP-dominated House early Friday muscled through a $3.7 billion disaster aid measure along with a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running past next Friday.

Senate likely to reject House-passed spending bill; shutdown still possible (USAToday/Helderman)

Washington lurched toward another potential government shutdown crisis Friday, as the House approved by a 219-203 vote a GOP-authored short-term funding measure designed to keep the government running through Nov. 18 and Democrats in the Senate immediately vowed to reject the bill. “We expect a vote fairly quickly,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday morning.

Another Tennessee expansion for Bridgestone (Nashville Post/Duncan)

On the heels on its announcement yesterday, Bridgestone Americas held a press conference this morning to announce an investment of $36.6 million in its Warren County bus/truck tire facility. The move will expand the facilities production capacity by roughly 900 tires per day.

FedEx Earnings Up, Outlook Lowered (Memphis Daily News)

Memphis-based FedEx Corp. increased its earnings per share for the first quarter of the fiscal year compared to the same quarter of 2010. The company Thursday, Sept. 22, reported earnings of $1.46 per diluted share compared to $1.20 a year ago, a 22 percent improvement.

State jobless rate decreases in August (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Tennessee’s unemployment rate for August was 9.7 percent, down from the July revised rate of 9.8, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development said today. Knox County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate of 7.7 percent, up from 7.5 percent in July.

Tennessee’s average state and local sales tax rank highest (Commercial Appeal/Locker)

Tennesseans pay the highest average state and local sales tax burdens in the country, a statewide average of 9.43 percent, according to a report released Thursday by the Tax Foundation, a tax research organization based in Washington. The Tax Foundation also ranks Tennessee 47th — or third lowest — in its overall average state and local tax burden, and 49th — second lowest — in the total average tax burden (federal, state and local) borne by its residents.

UT: Tennessee economy won’t improve until 2013 (Nashville Business Journal)

Despite some gains in the short term, a new study from the University of Tennessee suggests there won’t be significant improvements to the state’s economy until 2013. The fall 2011 Tennessee Business and Economic Outlook report, issued by UT’s Center for Business and Economic Research, says the state’s housing market will continue to struggle and that the economy risks being further hampered by the financial crisis in Europe.

Census calls Memphis poorest in nation (Commercial Appeal/Charlier)

With nearly one in five residents stuck below the poverty line, metropolitan Memphis ranks as by far the most impoverished large metro area in the nation, new census figures show. Of the 1.3 million people in the eight-county metro area, an estimated 246,265 — 19.1 percent — lived in poverty last year, according to figures released Thursday from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. That poverty rate, although a slight improvement from the 19.4 percent estimate for 2009, was the highest among the 51 U.S. metro areas with populations of at least 1 million.

Public gets details on Bradley exit plans (Times Free-Press/Higgins)

A public hearing Thursday focused on two interchange projects for the south side of Cleveland and Bradley County, but the one located near residential areas received the most attention. The Tennessee Department of Transportation conducted the dual-purpose hearing at Cleveland Middle School.

VW’s top global managers in Chattanooga today for strategy session (Times Free-Press/Pare)

Volkswagen’s top managers globally are slated to be in Chattanooga today and Friday for a high-level strategy session and to check out the German automaker’s newest assembly plant. Martin Winterkorn, the company’s chief executive, said earlier that about 250 VW officials, managers and their spouses are to be in the city.

Committee will consider returning funds to Hamilton County Schools (Times Free-Press/Haman)

A committee of five Hamilton County commissioners will consider whether to return to the school system control of as much as $3 million a year. Commissioner Chester Bankston asked the body to consider reversing its 8-1 February decision to hold some payment-in-lieu-of-taxes education funds for maintenance and construction.

UT showcase house getting its chance to shine on DC stage (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Boehnke)

The University of Tennessee has put its footprint on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. — a 750-square-foot footprint, to be exact. The Living Light house, UT’s submission to this year’s Department of Energy-sponsored solar decathlon, arrived at the nation’s capital 1 a.m. Sept. 14. The team of about 25 students finished assembling the ultra efficient house Tuesday morning.

Alexander advises restraint on waivers (Associated Press)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander wants Education Secretary Arne Duncan to show restraint in granting waivers to states on the No Child Left Behind Law. Duncan announced the waivers last month and said in order to get one, states must agree to education reforms the White House favors — from tougher evaluation systems for teachers and principals to programs helping minority students.

Dow falls 391 points as global anxiety about economy grows (Associated Press)

Investors on Wall Street and around the world sold stocks with abandon Thursday, more convinced than ever that a global recession is under way. The Dow Jones industrial average lost almost 400 points. The sell-off began in Asia, intensified in Europe and rattled markets in the United States all day.

Tax Reform Revisited (Memphis Flyer)

Bob Corker, the junior U.S. senator from Tennessee, made it clear Monday, in a talk to the Memphis Area Association of Realtors on Poplar, that he doesn’t think the spending cuts provided for in the last-minute congressional settlement of the debt-ceiling crisis were sufficient. Corker, a Republican, was the author of a spending-cap bill — “the only bill that was bicameral and bipartisan” — that, over a 10-year period, would have trimmed the nation’s deficit by some $5 trillion, a sum he contrasted with the $4 trillion figure that many in Congress had regarded as “the magic number” for reduction and with the $2.5 trillion in cuts, now and later, that was actually mandated by the final bill.

Sullivan County man calls Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to report he sexually abused teen (Kingsport Times-News)

A Piney Flats man who reported his own sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl has pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual battery. According to court records, Jeffery D. Forrester, 42, 308 Sugartree Road, initiated the investigation that led to his arrest by calling the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services abuse hotline.

Update: Criminal charges pending in pursuit, crash involving former DA Crumley (Johnson City Press)

Criminal charges are pending in a mid-day chase and crash in Jonesborough involving former District Attorney General Joe Crumley, who was taken to the hospital because he appeared to be in “medical duress” about an hour after the chase that ran several cars off the road Wednesday afternoon, according to the town’s police chief. Jonesborough Public Safety Chief Matt Hawkins said about 12:05 p.m. Wednesday an officer was nearly struck head-on in the 100 block of East Main Street when the driver of a Toyota Rav4, later identified in a Tennessee Highway Patrol crash report as Crumley, drove completely in his lane.

OPINION

Free-Press Editorial: Sen. Alexander’s unusual leadership decision (Times Free-Press)

In Washington, where power is the name of the game, it is rare to see a lawmaker willingly cede influence. But that is what Tennessee Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has done in announcing that he will step down in January from his position as Senate Republican Conference chairman.

Free-Press Editorial: Chattanooga hosts VW officials (Times Free-Press)

Chattanoogans have enthusiastically welcomed the billion-dollar Volkswagen manufacturing plant to our community. And this week, Chattanooga is playing host to about 250 Volkswagen officials, other VW employees and their spouses.

Greg Johnson: Voter ID requirements should be simple to understand (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Forgive me simplicity: in Tennessee, one must present a photo ID to buy a beer, board a plane, open a bank account, cash a check and, in some cases, use a credit card. So, given the seriousness of the times and the sacredness of the act, why not require a photo ID to vote? Is this really that hard?

State Senator Mae Beavers: ‘Judges judging judges’ is not sufficient (Tennessean)

The public perception of a judge is often one of dignity and fairness — the ultimate arbiter who always rules on the side of justice. However, to many Tennesseans those black robes represent the opposite of impartiality and fairness.

Guest Columnist: Judicial ethics board may get makeover (Tennessean)

The creation of the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary by legislation in 1979 was a product of cooperation, or comity, between separate and equal branches of government: legislative and judicial. Now, the General Assembly’s creation is being questioned by its own creator.

Editorial: NAACP right to focus on jobs at TN conference (Daily News Journal)

Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. That’s the word that is on the minds of many residents these days, particularly for the long-term unemployed who remain on the hunt for work in an increasingly competitive job market brought on by a lingering recession. For those in minority communities, the urgency is even greater.