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October 4 TN News Digest

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

Tennessee maintains top credit rating (Tennessean/Sisk)

Two of the agencies that rate government bonds have reaffirmed their AAA ratings for Tennessee, and a third has said it may upgrade the state following an annual review of the state’s finances. Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Inc. have decided they will leave the state’s rating at the highest level, a senior aide to state Comptroller Justin Wilson said in an email to lawmakers sent Monday afternoon.

Dickson adds 60 auto jobs for Chattanooga Volkswagen contract (Tenn/Marsteller)

A Canadian tool-and-die company is expanding its Dickson facility and plans to add 60 more workers, most of whom already have been hired. Gov. Bill Haslam and other state and local officials joined MetriCan Stamping on Monday in belatedly announcing the $6.3 million expansion, which has been under way for a few months.

Auto supplier growing in Dickson (Nashville Post/De Lombaerde)

A Canadian automotive supplier announced Monday it will expand its Dickson facility and add nearly 60 jobs. MetriCan, which opened its local outpost six years ago, said it invest $6.3 million and create manufacturing, warehouse and skilled trade positions.

Flags To Fly At Half-Staff To Honor Fallen Marine (Associated Press)

Governor Bill Haslam has ordered flags over the state Capitol and all state office buildings flown at half-staff Monday in honor of a fallen East Tennessee Marine. Lance Cpl. Franklin Watson, 21, was killed September 24 when his patrol came under fire in Afghanistan.

TNInvestco funds create Diagnovus (Nashville Business Journal)

A pair of TNInvestco funds have announced the creation of Diagnovus LLC, a Nashville-based molecular diagnostics company that will target rare forms of cancer. The funds, Limestone Fund and TriStar Technology Ventures, have joined to form a new company and also completed a round of seed financing.

Report cites efficient parole practices in Tenn. (Associated Press/Johnson)

A report on parole practices cites a collaborative effort between the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole and the state Correction Department as an effective way to assess the needs of offenders when resources are limited by budget restraints. The report released in August noted the focus of the departments’ Joint Offender Management Plan in 2009 was to reduce correctional costs to the state, “particularly through reducing parole and probation revocations.”

Driver service centers expected to get busier (Associated Press)

State officials expect the already busy driver service centers to get even more crowded over the coming months. So, voters without a photo ID are encouraged to visit a center to get one.

Rock Cress Provides Lesson in Maximizing Conservation Dollars (WPLN-Radio)

There’s a weed-like plant found outside Nashville that may help the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation stretch its wildlife protection funds. The shade-loving plant often found on limestone outcroppings isn’t spectacular, but it is endangered.

UTC’s future looks bright, UT President Joe DiPietro says (TFP/Trevizo)

The future of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is very bright and the university system will do everything it can to make sure it succeeds, UT President Joe DiPietro said Monday. “Without a doubt [we will be] far better down the road than we are today,” he told community and university leaders during a luncheon on campus.

UT gets grant for bioenergy production systems (Associated Press)

The Center for Renewable Carbon at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture will receive $5 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s for a research project to support the development of sustainable regional bioenergy production systems.

Bikers Butt Heads With Bean Counters (TN Report)

Even with Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny in the saddle of an effort to allow motorcycle riders to opt out of wearing helmets, he says he’s still only got a “50/50? shot of getting the bill to the floor next year. And even then, that doesn’t mean it’ll get much more traction.

State checking for noncitizen voters (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

The names or more than 20,000 noncitizens who hold Tennessee driver’s licenses are soon to be compared to voter registration records to determine if any have voted illegally. The comparison, which follows a legislative mandate approved in May, was inspired by a similar check in Colorado that found 11,800 noncitizens were registered to vote and about 5,000 had cast ballots in the 2010 election.

Election officials praise Tennessee voter photo ID law (Times-News)

Tennessee’s new voter photo identification law isn’t a partisan measure to keep people from voting, two election officials told a Greater Kingsport Republican Women’s luncheon on Monday. “One of the things that has been reported that this is a partisan issue, that Republicans did this for their reasons.

TFT Sees Tipping Point in Battle Over Income Tax Amendment (TN Report)

Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, the folks known for advocating an income tax despite long odds, face a bigger fight as lawmakers move toward a constitutional ban on a tax on personal income. About 40 TFT members from across the state gathered at the Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville on Saturday for their annual meeting to discuss their agenda and ways to better communicate their message of “tax justice.”

Tennessee gun crime rate is among highest (Tennessean/Haas)

Analysis of FBI data shows disturbing trend DyShieka Whitlow heard the gunshots outside her Nashville home one day last year as she and her little boy tried to sleep. But she never imagined her husband would be dying on their front lawn.

Alexander to get leadership honor in Jackson (Associated Press)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has been chosen to receive the Tigrett Award at the 22nd annual West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation’s charity gala Nov. 12 in Jackson. The award recognizes a Tennessean who has contributed to society through leadership locally, nationally and abroad.

24-year-old Weston Wamp says youth is an asset in run for Congress (TFP/Carroll)

Day Two of Weston Wamp’s primary campaign against U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann put the challenger on the defensive as local Republicans and Democrats asked why a 24-year-old former congressman’s son should get their votes. “People want to judge our new leaders on their skills and merits rather than their family names,” Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith said Monday.

Weston Wamp Talks Campaign, Age, and Dad’s Contribution (WTVC-TV Chatt.)

The son of former Congressman Zach Wamp has entered the race for his dad’s old seat. Weston Wamp is running for Tennessee’s third district in the House of Representatives. Wamp spoke with NewsChannel 9 Monday afternoon about his campaign.

Tennessee Doctors Worry Over Prospect of Medicare Cuts (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Federal efforts to cut the deficit this fall could hit the pocketbooks of doctors who treat patients on Medicare. That has some Tennessee physicians thinking about taking fewer Medicare patients.

Report on Medicare Cites Prescription Drug Abuse (New York Times)

Medicare is subsidizing drug abuse by thousands of beneficiaries who shop around for doctors and fill prescriptions for huge quantities of painkillers and other narcotics far exceeding what any patient could safely use, Congressional investigators say in a new report. The investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, said Medicare officials had been slow to recognize and act on the evidence of abuse, which is to be presented at a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

Address Unknown (Memphis Daily News)

USPS seeking ways to create sustainable business model For anyone in Memphis – and across Tennessee – who uses the U.S. Postal Service to send and receive bills, to get things like newspaper subscriptions by mail and DVDs from Netflix or just to write an old-fashioned letter on paper, things are about to change. When, and how much they’ll change is still being sorted out.

Green jobs plan shy of goals (Associated Press/Hananel)

$500M program finds work for very few A $500 million Labor Department program designed to train workers for green jobs has come up far short of its goals, with only 10 percent of participants finding work, the agency’s assistant inspector general has found. The report said the low rate makes it unlikely the program will meet the goal of placing nearly 80,000 workers in careers in energy efficiency or renewable energy by 2013.

Fight for Social Programs Looms Anew in the House (New York Times)

House Republicans are laying the groundwork for another battle with President Obama over spending and domestic policy with a bill that would cut some of his favorite health and education programs, tie the hands of the National Labor Relations Board and eliminate federal grants for Planned Parenthood clinics. The bill, which finances the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services, would prohibit Mr. Obama from spending more money to carry out the new health care law until all legal challenges to it were resolved.

Trial on TVA ash spill lawsuits now in 11th day (Associated Press)

Attorneys for property owners who are seeking damages from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s huge coal ash spill are continuing to call witnesses after 10 days of the trial. Plaintiff lawyers contend the December 2008 spill of toxin-laden muck into the Emory River and on a residential community around TVA’s Kingston Plant west of Knoxville was partly due to the utility’s negligence.

Regulators say TVA’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant safe to operate (TFP/Sohn)

Nuclear regulators on Monday told TVA and the public that a first round of “intrusive” inspections has found Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant safe to continue operating, but there are testing and documentation problems that must be corrected. TVA Chief Nuclear Officer Preston Swafford told NRC officials that the utility will fix the issues identified.

NRC extends TVA construction permit for Bellefonte reactor (News-Sentinel)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended TVA’s construction permit for an unfinished reactor at Bellefonte nuclear plant. With the NRC’s approval, TVA’s permit for the Unit 1 reactor, which would have expired Oct. 1, now is valid until Oct. 1, 2020.

E|Spaces plans Cool Springs location (Nashville Business Journal)

E|Spaces Inc. has announced plans for a second business center in Cool Springs. The company provides office and meeting space for entrepreneurs that don’t need large or long-term office arrangements.

Hackney making major push into furniture production (News-Sentinel/Huotari)

A new furniture venture by Knoxville-based wholesale distributor H.T. Hackney could be a boon to two small East Tennessee cities where at least some residents have been hurt by plant closures and layoffs. The two-month-old company, H.Home, already has about 90 employees at three sites and could add roughly two dozen or more workers in Bean Station early next year, said Michael E. Magill, H.Home general manager.

Tennessee ranks in top 10 states to retire by MoneyRates.com (M. Biz Journal)

Tennessee is one of the 10 best retirement states in America, according to the latest ranking by MoneyRates.com The Volunteer State came in No. 9 based on strong economic factors and its climate. The state had the eighth-best score for economic factors “largely on the strength of having the nation’s lowest cost of living,” according to MoneyRates.com.

It’s a great year for locally grown pumpkins (Johnson City Press)

With Halloween just around the corner, pumpkin sales in Tennessee are expected to soar, as severe weather in other parts of the country has put a premium on Tennessee-grown pumpkins. For local pumpkin farmers, the spotlight on Tennessee crops is a very good thing. Martin Crussell, a farmer in Piney Flats, has grown more pumpkins this year than in any of his 22 years farming.

United in duty (Commercial Appeal/McMillin)

It began and ended with prayers from some of Shelby County’s most influential clergy, with the appeals for guidance, wisdom and grace to be bestowed on the seven newest members of a 23-person unified school board. Charged with merging the 105,000-student Memphis City Schools system with the 45,000-student Shelby County Schools system, that board officially took over governance of both systems after Monday’s oath of office ceremonies for those seven appointed by the Shelby County Commission as part of a federal-court settlement.

Cleveland, Tenn., schools to study start and stop times (Times Free-Press/Higgins)

The Cleveland school board wants to take a new look at school start and stop times. The board asked Director of Schools Martin Ringstaff to review the alternatives for a report later this year.

Knox County students to have new safety tool at their fingertips (N-S/McCoy)

Middle and high school students will soon have a new tool to keep themselves and their classmates safe at their fingertips — literally. Beginning the week of Oct. 17, students will be able to participate in Tip411, which allows a student to anonymously send a text message to school and law enforcement officials if they have information they need to report to an adult.

Knox County School board has full agenda for work session (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

Knox County School Board members have a full agenda for Monday evening’s work session. Board members are expected to review conceptual plans for a new Carter Elementary School.

Physics fails numbers test at Ridgeway High School (Commercial Appeal/Roberts)

Class lopped by MCS, leaving students to scramble for credit Physics taught with a live classroom teacher died abruptly at Ridgeway High last week, a casualty of finances and staffing ratios. Instead, the course and lab, at least for this year, will be taught online, officials said Monday.

Long-time Smyrna teacher loses suit, but not resolve (Daily News Journal)

Nearly two months after the state Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of longtime teacher Leonora “Boe” Washington’s lawsuit against Rutherford County School officials, she refuses to remain quiet about what she still sees as being denied due process by school officials. However, a great deal has changed in how school officials deal with internal complaints against teachers and school officials since Washington’s four-year battle with the district office over a single incident.

New York: Odds against layoffs (Times Union)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo probably won’t go through with laying off almost 3,500 Public Employees Federation workers, according to a well-placed person close to the governor’s negotiators. The person put it at an 80 percent chance of avoiding the dismissals. But Cuomo’s people are concerned.

OPINION 

Editorial: No Child Left Behind waivers part of advancing education reform (N-S)

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent appearance in Washington with President Barack Obama highlights some interesting points. In an era of take-no-prisoners politics, bipartisanship can work if a Republican governor and Democratic president share a common interest in an issue and are willing to cooperate for the national good.

Editorial: NCLB waiver step in right direction for TN schools (Daily News Journal)

It was past time to fix the fix. No Child Left Behind became federal law in 2002, passing through Congress with good intentions and widespread bipartisan support. But we were ready for the recent announcement by President Barack Obama returning more control over schools to the state level.

Editorial: Give teacher eval system time to work (Jackson Sun)

The Jackson Sun was in full support of education reforms passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in a special session early this year, including more stringent requirements for teacher observations and evaluations. We still back the changes, but information in a story published in The Jackson Sun on Sunday gives us reason to pause.

Guest columnist: Education problems amplified for U.S. military (Tennessean)

Late last month, Gov. Bill Haslam introduced President Obama at a White House event focused on education. It’s a critical issue, and Tennessee’s efforts at education reform deserve national attention.

Editorial: Scrutiny for Tennessee’s judges (Commercial Appeal)

Tennessee Republicans have been taking errant swings at the state Supreme Court with their campaigns to switch to contested elections for the state attorney general’s office and state appellate court judgeships. The GOP may be onto something useful, however, in its proposed reform of the Court of the Judiciary.

Times Editorial: Goals from UT President DiPietro set vision for future (TFP)

University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro has been on the job for only 10 months, but he’s set positive goals for the institutions he oversees. It’s difficult to say at this point if his objectives can or will be met, but his obvious grasp of the complex problems that currently confront public higher education in Tennessee and his understanding of what is required to build a top-tier university system strongly suggest that he is on the right track.

Free-Press Editorial: UTC sets sights high in region (Times Free-Press)

It is no secret that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has a variety of important roles in our community. First, it educates thousands of undergraduate and graduate students every year, equipping them for productive lives.

Guest columnist: Renewable energy is a job creator (Tennessean)

Washington must not miss chance to set prudent policy U.S. energy policy is in free fall as partisan politics undermine bipartisan support for renewable energy. While we struggle with a weak economy, excessive unemployment and high fuel costs, Washington remains gridlocked in its efforts to create a brighter, more secure energy future.

Free-Press Editorial: Obama’s new stimulus bill won’t create jobs (TFP)

For the 9.1 percent of Americans who are officially unemployed — and the millions more who can get only part-time work or who have given up the job hunt in frustration — there are no easy solutions. They are in real pain, and even if our nation adopted the wisest economic policies today, it would be awhile before they would see much relief from unemployment.

Editorial: Alabama’s Shame (New York Times)

Only about 3.5 percent of Alabama’s population is foreign-born, according to the Census Bureau. Undocumented immigrants made up roughly 4.2 percent of its work force in 2010, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

 

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