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October 3 TN News Digest

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

A community says goodbye to a local Marine killed in combat (WVLT-TV Knoxville)

Hundreds in Monroe County pay their final respects to a local hero, killed in action in Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Frankie Watson’s funeral was held at the first baptist church in Madisonville.

Higher ed leaders broach $1B bonds (Daily News Journal)

Low interest rates have leaders of Tennessee’s two higher education systems talking about a bond issue to pay for new campus construction that could total $1.5 billion. Such a move could pave the way for MTSU’s long-awaited $126 million science building.

Higher ed looking at bonds for capital projects (Associated Press)

Low interest rates have leaders of Tennessee’s two higher education systems talking about a bond issue to pay for new campus construction that could total $1.5 billion. University of Tennessee trustee and Knoxville-based developer Robert Talbott said at a trustee committee meeting that a $1 billion bond issue would cost about $58 million a year.

New evaluation rules affecting educators’ focus (Daily News Journal)

Local boards notify state of problems Some local educators say the new process used to evaluate teachers is forcing them to switch their focus — from students to themselves. Both the Rutherford County and Murfreesboro City school boards have sent letters to state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman asking him to reconsider portions of the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model, which took effect July 1.

E. Tenn. truck stop got stimulus money despite bankruptcy (Tennessean/Gee)

In July, Tennessee’s transportation commissioner applauded the opening of the state’s first truck- stop electrification terminal at TR Auto Truck Plaza in Dandridge, a project taxpayers paid for with a $424,000 federal stimulus fund grant. Thursday, the shiny new equipment languished uselessly as U.S. Bank took possession of the bankrupt business after an auction at the Jefferson County Courthouse failed to solicit a single bid.

County attorney told of jail liability problems (Daily News Journal)

Rutherford leaders debate methods for fix Newly-obtained documents reveal the county attorney’s office warned jail officials in August that Rutherford County could be sued for negligence if issues raised during a recent Tennessee Corrections Institute inspection are not addressed. The sheriff’s office requested an opinion from County Attorney Jim Cope’s office following the Aug. 15 TCI inspection that found problems with the jail’s kitchen, along with security and safety inside the jail.

Kisber Doesn’t Recall if Amazon Deal was in Writing (TN Report)

Former Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber said Saturday night he does not remember if the controversial Amazon.com tax arrangement with the state was ever put in writing. The question of whether the Amazon deal was actually put on paper or was the result of a handshake deal has been one of many questions surrounding the agreement, which was made during former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration, in which Kisber served.

Voters say precincts don’t make sense (Tennessean/Cass)

Voters in two parts of Nashville say they aren’t being assigned to the polling places closest to their homes, making it more difficult for those who don’t have reliable transportation to vote. Lorrie Hinkle-Reedy lives in Cayce Place, a public housing development in East Nashville.

Affection for McWherter, Antipathy for Republicans at Dems’ J. Day Dinner (TNR)

In praise of the late Gov. Ned McWherter’s record on education, House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh reignited battles of this year’s legislative session Saturday night at the Tennessee Democratic Party Jackson Day Dinner. “Ned wouldn’t have backed down when my colleagues across the aisle began to attack teachers in this state, and neither did we in the House and Senate Democratic Caucus,” Fitzhugh said to applause.

Dean’s goal of doubling city’s college grads won’t come easily (City Paper/Garrison)

In an inauguration speech that skimmed a potpourri of topics and leaned on the familiar mantra of “education, public safety and economic development,” Mayor Karl Dean said something two Fridays ago he never had before: Nashville should double its number of college graduates –– in just five years. “I’m setting a marker on this today,” Dean told a few hundred onlookers, sharing the stage with a newly elected crop of Metro Council members.

Alexander’s leadership exit move may have been coy (City Paper/Woods)

Sen. Lamar Alexander has won favor with pundits for his decision to quit his Republican leadership position in January to focus on reaching bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems. But he’s drawing scorn from the GOP’s Tea Party wing, which sees any attempt to accommodate Democrats as a betrayal of principle.

Health-care law looms over new Supreme Court term (Associated Press/Sherman)

The nine justices of the Supreme Court, who serve a life term without having to seek election, soon will have to decide whether to insert themselves into the center of the presidential campaign next year. The high court begins its new term today, and President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, which affects almost everyone in the country, is squarely in its sights.

New State Rules Raising Hurdles at Voting Booth (New York Times)

Since Republicans won control of many statehouses last November, more than a dozen states have passed laws requiring voters to show photo identification at polls, cutting back early voting periods or imposing new restrictions on voter registration drives. With a presidential campaign swinging into high gear, the question being asked is how much of an impact all of these new laws will have on the 2012 race.

As states cut aid, localities learn to do less with less (Stateline)

You can get accustomed to hard times, and over the last few years Ohio’s towns and cities learned to scrape by. Faced with the long-term decay of Rust Belt manufacturing and the financial travails of homeowners, banks and businesses of all sorts, they watched their tax revenues shrink and did their best to adjust. They deferred road maintenance.

Five ways to squeeze Medicare (USA Today)

Nearly 50 million people on Medicare, as well as those entering the program at a pace of one every eight seconds, are likely to get more than their money’s worth before they die. The same can’t be said for anyone under 55 who will rely on the federal health care program for those 65 and older in the future.

TVA building landfill to handle remaining ash from spill (Times Free-Press/Sohn)

Streets of empty houses sit with dark windows around the glittering coves of the Emory River. A glance away, giant earth-moving machines scoop, pull and push ash, the unwelcome trespasser that nearly three years ago belched from a failed landfill to ooze over 300 acres and the river.

Unemployed face few insurance options (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Rupp)

Private insurance premiums for families rose nine percent this year, according to a report released last week. For families trying to survive on unemployment checks, food stamps or part-time, low-pay work, affording private insurance becomes next to impossible. “We witness many customers who accept positions that are not consistent with their education, previous experience or wage history in order to obtain health insurance,” said Ray Abbas, Tennessee Career Center in Knoxville services manager.

Coping in the Recession (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Rupp)

Medical professionals create continuum of care for uninsured, unemployed When Brock Davidson needed a doctor a few weeks ago, he didn’t know what to do. Davidson, a West Knoxville father of five, had lost his health insurance when he lost his commercial construction job in April.

Herenton submits applications to start charter schools (C. Appeal/Roberts)

By next fall, former mayor Willie Herenton intends to be running Orleans Elementary, Manassas High and a significant hunk of Booker T. Washington as charter schools, based on seven applications he submitted Friday. With Texas-based Harmony Schools as advising partner, Herenton and his newly formed W.E.B. DuBois Consortium of Charter Schools expect to be the first private company to take over an entire public school here.

New unified school board members to be sworn in (C. Appeal/McMillin)

7 appointees become official at tonight’s ceremony at Board of Education When they attended last Thursday night’s inaugural meeting of the schools merger transition commission, it was, technically, as private citizens. But if Vanecia Kimbrow, Reginald Porter Jr. and Kevin Woods attend the transition team’s second meeting — this Thursday night — it will be as official members of the Shelby County Board of Education.

Students hit salad bar for health (Tennessean/DeVille)

It’s lunchtime at Glendale Elementary School, and kids have the option of a whole-grain cheese pizza, a turkey sandwich, or a wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies from the school’s new salad bar. Brightly colored foods such as red cherry tomatoes or carrots and oranges make up the Whole Foods-like salad bar for youngsters.

Williamson schools may teach Chinese in K-12 (Tennessean/Giordano)

Confucius Institute may bring program to Williamson site Tai chi in the gymnasium and a Chinese vegetable garden behind the main office? This may be what the future holds for a recently closed Williamson County elementary school, which could become a Chinese language facility.

Incentives for Advanced Work Let Pupils and Teachers Cash In (NY Times)

Joe Nystrom, who teaches math at a low-income high school here, used to think that only a tiny group of students — the “smart kids” — were capable of advanced coursework. But two years ago, spurred by a national program that offered cash incentives and other support for students and teachers, Mr. Nystrom’s school, South High Community School, adopted a come one, come all policy for Advanced Placement courses.

Abandoned meth lab found in Hawkins County (Times-News)

During the early morning hours of Sept. 29, officers of the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit received information of a possible meth manufacturing lab site in a remote wooded section of property off of Frost Road in the Caney Valley community. During a check of the area, narcotics officers located an abandoned meth lab site nearly 100 yards off the roadway.

Three nabbed in meth bust in Hawkins County (Times-News)

Responding to a disturbance complaint last week just north of Surgoinsville, Hawkins County deputies arrested three people and seized what is suspected to be a recently active meth lab and finished product. Early Tuesday morning the HCSO was dispatched to 410 Watterson Gap Road in reference to some type of disturbance.

North Carolina: A State Grooms Its Best Students to Be Good Teachers (NY Times)

When Mr. Williams means business, he is not kidding around. “He’s pretty quiet, pretty serious,” said Ashabur Rahman, a fifth grader at Glenn Elementary School who has him for math and science. John Williams III, 36, is not some jokey teacher. “At the start of the year, some kids said he was going to be the meanest teacher in the school,” said Trajen Womack.

OPINION

Tom Humphrey: Governor eyes overhaul of TRA, might settle for less (N-S)

Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Gov. Bill Haslam in his dealings with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, now that he has results from a ‘top-to-bottom review’ of the agency created as one of former Gov. Don Sundquist’s most-heralded accomplishments. The TRA’s functions have been reduced considerably since 15 years ago, when it regulated the trucking industry and set rates for telephone customers.

Times Editorial: Waging war on drunk drivers (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

It’s both sad and predictable that drunk drivers in Tennessee are responsible for much of the carnage on the state’s highways and other roads. They cause, on average, about 30 percent of the state’s traffic deaths and they are involved in a large number of non-fatal crashes.

Editorial: Spending cuts can’t be made without making sacrifices (Jackson Sun)

Jackson area residents are beginning to experience fallout from the nation’s efforts to cut spending and reduce the national debt. It is early in the process, and there surely is more to come.

Gail Kerr: State’s official Blue Book ignores useful critters (Tennessean)

Tennessee’s rare and elusive Barrens darter has been robbed. The fascinating 3-inch fish is one of 16 species from the Volunteer State being examined to see if it should be added to the federal endangered list. Get this: The girl Barrens darter makes a nest under rocks and turns upside down to lay her eggs, and then the boy Barrens darter swoops in to raise the kids.

Editorial: Sweet music for MCS (Commercial Appeal)

Memphis City Schools once again has been recognized nationally for its music education program. Last week, MCS was honored for the fourth time as one of the Best Communities for Music Education in America by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation.

Free-Press Editorial: Chattanooga housing market may be stabilizing (TFP)

No one is saying that the Chattanooga-area housing market is “out of the woods” yet, but it is encouraging that August sales of homes in the area reached the highest monthly total in more than a year. Nearly 600 residential units sold here in August, which was up almost 14 percent from July and 24 percent from the previous August.

Guest columnist: What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ Rules? (Wall St. Journal)

Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league.

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