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October 1 TN News Digest

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

Haslam boosts TN’s education profile (Tennessean/Sisk, Hubbard)

No Child, tenure issues highlight effort Gov. Bill Haslam has thrust Tennessee’s efforts to reform its education system into the national spotlight with a pair of high-profile appearances, drawing attention while also tying his image to the state’s performance. Stressing state-by-state flexibility and higher standards for students and teachers, Haslam has stood with President Barack Obama in recent days to support waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind law and taken part in a televised two-day summit on education reform organized by NBC News.

State agency outlines school district strategies (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Education Department on Friday released several strategies to help school districts reach goals set by the state, which U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has singled out as a leader in education reform. Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said the state will seek to expand students’ access to effective teachers and leaders; improve access to good schools; expand educators’ access to resources and best practices; and provide better access to information and data.

State education head releases four-priorities strategic plan (City Paper)

The Tennessee Department Education on Friday released Commissioner Kevin Huffman’s strategic plan, outlining the department’s four strategic priorities for supporting districts in reaching their academic goals. They include expanding students’ access to effective teachers and leaders, expanding families’ access to good schools, expanding educators’ access to resources and best practices and expanding public access to information and data.

How to Pick Judges? Issue Remains Politically Unsettled in TN (TN Report)

Gov. Bill Haslam knows he doesn’t want Tennessee Supreme Court and appeals court judges to be selected by voters. But he’s unwilling to say if he believes an unbiased reading of the Tennessee Constitution backs him up on that.

Lori Nunnery appointed to tourism task force (Jackson Sun)

Lori Nunnery, of the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau, has been appointed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s tourism task force. She will join 12 tourism leaders from across the state to strategize and identify goals to increase Tennessee tourism spending and job creation.

Commissioner: State needs to set right tone, support existing businesses (DNJ)

Not all business is good business. “If we get the right tone in Tennessee, we could have all kinds of investments here. The right people need to be inspired to invest,” Mark Emkes, who is the state’s commissioner of Finance and Administration, said Friday.

Funeral arrangements set for Madisonville Marine slain in Afghanistan (N-S)

The Marine who hoped one day to guard the president will come home to be buried this weekend. Family and friends will gather Sunday to say goodbye to Lance Cpl.

State lauds Mt. Pleasant educator (Columbia Daily Herald)

Mt. Pleasant Elementary principal Larry Brown was honored by the Tennessee Department of Education as Middle Tennessee’s Principal of the Year during an award ceremony earlier this week. Brown said he received the honor because his school scored higher average math and language skills over the past three years than any other school in Middle Tennessee.

Fritts Accused of ‘Doctor Shopping’ for Hydrocodone (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)

A McMinn County man is charged with TennCare fraud for the crime of “doctor shopping” for controlled substances. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with assistance from McMinn County Sheriff’s and Athens police officers today announced the arrest of Johnny L. Fritts, 26, of Athens.

New Mississippi River tourism trail announced (Associated Press/Sainz)

Tourism officials on Friday launched the new Great River Road Trail, a self-guided driving tour covering 240 miles through six counties and several small towns in West Tennessee. The trail is made up of existing tourist attractions along the Mississippi River, including museums, parks, historic homes, nature trails and Civil War sites.

Rising costs slow Motlow State expansion (Tennessean/Stockard)

Motlow State Community College unveiled plans this week for a 35,000-square-foot building on its Smyrna campus, but rising costs are forcing college officials to raise nearly $1 million more for space needs, with an additional $400,000 still untapped. Motlow State received $9.4 million from the state, community and Smyrna for the classroom/laboratory building, which will enable the college to offer a complete registered nursing program.

University of Memphis sets $250 million goal in fundraising (C. Appeal/Moore)

Centennial Campaign already at 74 percent With a goal of endowing scholarships, attracting faculty and constructing new buildings, the University of Memphis announced on Friday the most ambitious fundraising effort in the school’s 100-year history. The goal of the Centennial Campaign is to raise $250 million by June 30, 2013. Already more than $185 million has been raised during its “quiet” phase, said Charles Burkett, who with his wife, Judy, is heading up the effort.

Programs Work To Keep Talent In Memphis (Memphis Daily News)

Students interested in obtaining a degree in chemical, civil, electrical, computer and mechanical engineering have several local options thanks to programs offered at Christian Brothers University, Rhodes College and the University of Memphis. In addition to preparing the local workforce for high-paying jobs, the schools also work to keep that knowledge base here in Memphis. CBU offers undergraduate engineering programs in chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering.

MTSU receives designation as ‘military friendly school’ (Daily News Journal)

MTSU has for the second consecutive year made the list of “Military Friendly Schools,” an annual rating by G.I. Jobs, which is published by veteran-owned Victory Media. The publication surveyed more than 7,000 schools nationwide, and 1,231 were selected for the designation.

Funds awarded in insurance conflict (Columbia Daily Herald)

Tennessee officials say they’ll distribute $300,000 to about 172 consumers nationwide who complained about a company accused of selling phony health insurance. Meanwhile, a federal judge in Nashville has agreed to bar United States Benefits LLC owner and officers Tim Thomas and his wife Keenan Dozier-Thomas from selling health benefits and health insurance.

State sponsoring document shredding Saturday (Associated Press)

State officials are sponsoring document shredding Saturday in Nashville to promote identity theft awareness. The Consumer Affairs Division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance and the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office will have personnel at the LP Field parking lot where citizens can safely shred and dispose of outdated, private records. Members of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security will distribute information on preventing such theft. Gary Cordell, state consumer affairs director, said identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in Tennessee.

Mom of missing student calls TBI every day (Associated Press)

The mother of a missing nursing student says she calls the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation every day for any news about the girl. Karen Bobo told Nashville’s WSMV-TV that it gets more frustrating every day.

TBI to probe extent of Collierville employee thefts (Commercial Appeal/Wolff)

Two Collierville officials have asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to examine the town’s Parks and Recreation Department to determine if there is a pervasive culture of theft that goes beyond the recent firing of three employees for stealing gasoline. Collierville Aldermen Tom Allen and Billy Patton asked Shelby County Dist. Atty. Amy Weirich and TBI to investigate.

Licensed practical nurse indicted in Washington County (Bristol Herald-Courier)

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has arrested a licensed practical nurse after she was indicted by the Washington County Grand Jury for illegally obtaining a controlled substance. Erin Tipton, 34, of Erwin, Tenn. was indicted earlier this month on 42 counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, deceit, or theft.

Injury, consumer case laws change (Commercial Appeal/Locker)

Tennessee’s legal landscape changes dramatically today. Legal actions for injuries, deaths and other losses that occur from today forward are subject to big changes in personal-injury and consumer-protection laws, including new caps on damage awards.

Lawmakers Refereeing ‘Turf Battle’ Over Pain-Management Care (TN Report)

The question of who exactly should be legally authorized to shoot powerful medications into easily injured areas of the body, like a patient’s spine, dominated talk on Capitol Hill Thursday. Lawmakers heard testimony from the medical community about rules governing the tricky job of pain management.

Juvenile Court office joins digital age (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Haman)

Hamilton County Juvenile Court finally is going digital. Juvenile Court Clerk Gary Behler and his staff are finishing up a year of drilling, wiring, upgrading computers and archiving thousands of paper files in an effort to digitize much of the court’s content.

Lawsuit alleges disability pensions wrongly taxed (Knox. News-Sentinel/Balloch)

Some retired Knoxville firefighters and police officers have paid income taxes they did not have to because of erroneous information sent to them by the Knoxville Pension Board, a lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit involves firefighters and police officers on disability pensions related to line-of-duty injuries.

Report: Financial control ran amok at Shelby Co. Chancery Court (CA/Perrusquia)

Internal investigation of lax safeguards finds conditions that fostered theft, manipulation Financial controls were so weak at Shelby County Chancery Court that receipts and disbursements went unrecorded in ledgers, clerks had unbridled power to write huge checks and bank reconciliation was late and at times wasn’t done at all. These are among the findings in a Shelby County internal control study released late Thursday.

Lamar Alexander Makes a Pitch for Coalition Government (Memphis Flyer)

Lamar Alexander is revisiting his past at the same time he is redesigning his future. The state’s senior U.S. Senator, who recently announced he is stepping down from his leadership post as GOP caucus chairman in the Senate, treated students at the University of Memphis Law School to a vision of his political beginnings on Thursday.

Sen. Alexander Recalls Early Days of Governorship (Memphis Daily News)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said he tends to favor the trio of governors in the still forming field for the Republican presidential nomination. “I like the governors,” Alexander, a former governor of Tennessee, told more than 100 students last week at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphries School of Law.

Congressman Phil Roe sits down with the BHC, 11Connects (Bristol Herald-Courier)

Northeast Tennessee’s congressman claims there are plenty of programs in the federal budget that could be cut so the Federal Emergency Management Agency has the money to keep its disaster assistance programs running without driving the country deeper into debt. “It’s about accountability and using the government’s money wisely,” U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, said in a Friday interview with the Bristol Herald Courier’s editorial board.

Tennessee in Compliance With Adam Walsh Act (Associated Press)

The U.S. Department of Justice says Tennessee is in compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection Act after reviewing its state law, policies and procedures. The department announced Thursday that Tennessee is one of 15 states in compliance with the act, named for a Florida boy abducted and murdered in 1981.

Economist Tells Club Stimulus Too Small (Memphis Daily News)

As economist and author Bruce Bartlett sees it, the $787 billion stimulus bill President Barack Obama prodded Congress to pass shortly after his inauguration in 2009 didn’t bring the economy back to life like it was intended. But the failure is not because the package was a bad idea.

A Push to Improve Teachers’ Colleges (Wall Street Journal)

The Obama administration announced a new $185 million competition Friday that would reward colleges for producing teachers whose students perform well on standardized tests. The competition would require states to provide data linking collegiate teaching programs inside their borders to the test scores of their graduates’ students.

Bellefonte Nuclear Plant gains permit extension (Times Free-Press/Sohn)

TVA’s planned completion of Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Alabama got another green light from federal nuclear regulators Friday, the eve of the plant’s original 37-year-old construction permit expiration. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission extended the permit, first issued in 1974, and it is now valid until Oct. 1, 2020.

Businesses urge new unemployment rules (Tennessean/Sisk)

Too easy for jobless to claim benefits in Tenn., owners say A few years ago, only two or three files sat on the shelf where Peter Demos kept information on unemployment claims. Now the files fill an entire filing cabinet drawer. “Sometimes they’ll work two days.

Williamson County Bucking The Trend With New Jobs (WTVF-TV Nashville)

When it comes to job creation, Williamson County is definitely bucking the national trend. Since July companies have announced 1,000 new jobs are coming to the area in the next few years.

Middle TN jobs gloom eases (Tennessean/Marsteller)

Economist: Tennessee has improved but is still in danger Ivy Petty sees the signs of economic recovery at her office: Her employer, ServPro of Coffee/Franklin/Warren Counties, recently hired three technicians and another marketing representative. So, when she heard an economist say Friday that Middle Tennessee is showing some brighter signs of economic life, she nodded in agreement.

“Nation has outperformed Memphis,” Burgundy Book reports (M. Biz Journal)

The employment picture in Memphis generally has been worse than the national experience, along with sizable contraction in year-over-year building permits, according to the Burgundy Book report released Thursday by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . At the end of July the annual growth rate for building permits showed a decline of 37.4 percent, a 6.1 percent decline for housing prices and 0.6 percent growth for employment.

USEC may cut 190 Oak Ridge jobs (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

USEC Inc. on Friday notified 190 Oak Ridge employees that they might be laid off a month from now if uncertainty about funding means it has to stop most activity on a uranium enrichment project. The total of USEC notices coming out of Oak Ridge would reach 203, if it includes some employees reporting to the Oak Ridge office but working in Ohio, Maryland and Virginia, USEC Vice President Paul Jacobson said.

Schools Get Fresh Start With New Board (Memphis Daily News)

The separate Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools boards are no more when the end of September rolls over into October. And the 23 members of the countywide Shelby County Schools board take the oath of office Monday, Oct. 3 at the MCS auditorium.

‘Kumbaya’ or ‘See Ya?’: Is Greater Shelby School District Wishful Thinking? (MF)

Let’s get down to cases here. My colleague John Branston has presented some well-distilled arguments for large school districts. If memory serves right, the consolidated Memphis City Schools-Shelby County Schools district, if taken at full (i.e., with no dropouts) would be the 18th largest in the United States.

Tempers boil over at Memphis City Schools job fair (Commercial Appeal/Roberts)

Police were called to calm a disturbance at a Memphis City Schools job fair Friday when about 70 experienced teachers were told there were no openings. “When I heard that, I turned around and told all the teachers in the auditorium that we need to file a class-action suit,” said Dennis Paden, 54, an 18-year classroom veteran with a master’s degree.

Application for ASD charter school in Hamilton County rejected (Nooga)

Hamilton County will have to wait until next year for another shot at the potential addition of a new charter school backed by the Tennessee Achievement School District. Last month, ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic announced plans to begin accepting proposals from organizations interested in opening charter schools in ASD attendance zones.

McIntyre recommends name for new Knox Co. STEM academy (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

After weeks of hearing suggestions and opinions, the superintendent of Knox County Schools is ready to make his recommendation as to the name of the new STEM academy. In a memo to the school board, Dr. Jim McIntyre suggests the new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Magnet High School, located in the historic L&N Depot in downtown Knoxville, be named the L&N STEM Academy.

No decision yet on Union County School budget (WATE-TV Knoxville)

The Union County Schools’ budget battle will continue after the county commission voted to further postpone making a decision. The previous deadline to balance the schools’ budget was the October 1st, or the county would lose state funding.

Alabama: Many Immigrants Pull Children From Schools (Associated Press)

Hispanic students are vanishing from public schools in the wake of a court ruling on Wednesday that upheld the state’s tough new law cracking down on illegal immigration. Education officials say scores of immigrant families have withdrawn their children or kept them home this week, afraid that sending them to school would draw attention from the authorities.

California: California Pulls Out of Foreclosure Talks (Wall Street Journal)

Move Is Serious Blow to Federal and State Effort to Reach $25 Billion Deal With Banks Over Questionable Practices California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris pulled out of settlement negotiations with the nation’s biggest banks over alleged foreclosure abuses, calling the proposed deal “inadequate for California homeowners.” The decision by Ms. Harris delivers a serious blow to efforts by the Obama administration and 50 state attorneys general to forge a $25 billion settlement with the nation’s largest banks over “robo-signing” and other questionable foreclosure practices.

Florida: Florida Move Shakes Up Election Calendar (Wall Street Journal)

Florida officials scrambled the 2012 presidential nominating calendar Friday by setting Jan. 31 as the date of the state’s primary. Other states immediately signaled their intent to vote earlier than Florida, setting up the prospect of Republicans starting the process of picking their presidential nominee during the winter holidays, possibly in December.

Florida: Judge Stops Florida’s Plan to Privatize 29 State Prisons (New York Times)

A state judge ruled on Friday that it was unconstitutional for the Florida Legislature to attach a far-reaching proposal — one that would privatize 29 prisons in South Florida — to “the hidden recesses” of an appropriations bill. The ruling by the judge, Jackie L. Fulford, stops the state’s plan to privatize the prisons, which was expected to begin early next year.

West Virginia: West Virginia Race Tightens (Wall Street Journal)

National groups are pouring money into the governor’s race in West Virginia, an election widely viewed as the most competitive of the four statewide contests this fall. Although state issues, such as local job creation and the health of the West Virginia economy, are dominating the campaign, the Oct. 4 special election could be an indicator of voter sentiment in 2012, with Republican challenger Bill Maloney, a Morgantown businessman, seeking to link Democratic acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to the policies of the White House.

OPINION

Guest columnist: How we pick judges is good for business (Tennessean)

Earlier this year, Tennesseans spoke out. Under the leadership of Gov. Bill Haslam, they made it clear that the state needs civil justice reform as an important way to grow jobs. Both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly agreed, and the Tennessee Civil Justice Act today becomes the law of the land.

Free-Press Editorial: Tennessee’s punishing tax (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation’s report confirms that Tennesseans continue to pay the highest average sales taxes in the nation — an average of 9.43 cents on every dollar’s worth of purchases. This is no surprise.

Editorial: A new role for Alexander (Commercial Appeal)

Leaving the GOP leadership ranks, Lamar Alexander says, will help him return education to the states. Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander says he can be more effective outside Republican leadership circles.

Times Editorial: Project Access’ notable service (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

For all the troubles with the nation’s health care system in terms of affordability and the rising number of uninsured, there have always been physicians and other health-care givers who are willing to provide free care to those who are in need but unable to pay. The Project Access Community Health Partnership reflects such physicians’ compassion.

Editorial: The Supreme Court and Health Care Reform (New York Times)

If the Supreme Court decides to take up the constitutionality of health care reform in its current term, which begins on Monday, a ruling could come by the end of June, well before the November elections. Pundits are already speculating over which party would gain the most traction from a decision that goes one way or another.

Editorial: Improving No Child Left Behind (New York Times)

The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act focused the country’s attention on school reform as never before, but the law is far from perfect. The Obama administration is wise to address its flaws, since Congress is four years overdue in updating the law.

 

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