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October 7 TN News Digest

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

Haslam Announces Agreement With Amazon (TN Report)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced an agreement with Amazon resulting in the company’s subsidiaries creating 3,500 full time Tennessee-based jobs with benefits, thousands of seasonal jobs along with making $350 million in capital investment by maintaining the previously announced projects in Hamilton, Bradley and Wilson counties and additional projects in Tennessee. Amazon’s commitment today represents 2,000 more full-time jobs than were originally announced in Hamilton and Bradley counties.

Amazon to collect TN sales tax, add centers, jobs (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Gov. Bill Haslam and Amazon.com announced Thursday that the online retailer has agreed to begin collecting Tennessee sales taxes in 2014, build two more distribution centers and generate 2,000 full-time jobs. Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. said it will invest $350 million in Tennessee over the next three years.

Haslam seals Amazon tax deal in Tennessee, touts new jobs (Nash. Biz Journal)

Gov. Bill Haslam confirmed a sales tax deal with online retailer Amazon.com Thursday morning, announcing thousands of additional jobs and what he hopes will be the resolution of a long-running dispute within the business community. Amazon will invest a total of $350 million and create 3,500 full-time jobs under the deal, which will also include new locations in Tennessee.

Amazon Deal Comes With More Jobs (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Amazon.com will put off collecting sales taxes for more than two years in Tennessee, in exchange for building two additional facilities in the state. The deal brokered under Governor Bill Haslam is expected to add more than a thousand jobs.

Haslam grants Amazon two years (Nashville Post/Woods)

Gov. Bill Haslam announced a new agreement with Amazon.com Thursday, granting the Internet retailer a two-year reprieve from collecting state sales taxes from Tennessee customers. Haslam said Amazon will hire 1,500 more workers in Tennessee in addition to the ones the company already has agreed to employ, bringing its investment in the state to $350 million and 3,500 jobs.

Amazon’s sales tax deal includes jobs (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sher)

Gov. Bill Haslam announced an agreement Thursday in which Amazon will start collecting sales taxes upon Tennesseans in 2014 and double the company’s distribution centers and workers in the state. The deal calls for the online retailing giant to build two new centers and hire 1,500 to 1,700 full-time workers to staff them.

Tennessee strikes deal with Amazon to collect sales taxes (Nooga)

Amazon will also bring 2,000 additional jobs to Tennessee After about a year of negotiation, state and local leaders announced that Amazon will collect sales taxes starting in 2014. Leaders also announced that the online retailer will bring 2,000 more jobs than originally planned to Tennessee.

Haslam announces tax deal with Amazon that would add 2,000 jobs (C. Appeal)

Gov. Bill Haslam announced Thursday that he has reached a deal with Amazon.com for the online retailer to begin collecting Tennessee sales tax in 2014 and add 2,000 full-time jobs at two new distribution centers. Amazon said it will invest $350 million in Tennessee over the next three years.

Haslam announces agreement with Amazon (Bristol Herald-Courier)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced an agreement with Amazon resulting in the company’s subsidiaries creating 3,500 full time Tennessee-based jobs with benefits, thousands of seasonal jobs along with making $350 million in capital investment by maintaining the previously announced projects in Hamilton, Bradley and Wilson counties and additional projects in Tennessee. Amazon’s commitment today represents 2,000 more full-time jobs than were originally announced in Hamilton and Bradley counties.

Amazon scoping state, including Montgomery County, for expansion sites (L-C)

“Project Tango” was on the table, and Clarksville/Montgomery County economic development officials decided to join the dance. At stake was a chance to land one of two potential major industrial projects outlined by a firm searching for distribution sites in Tennessee.

Loudon County buzzing after mystery project confirmed as Amazon (WATE-TV)

A Loudon County official says news of an Amazon distribution facility in the county came as a welcome surprise. Gov. Bill Haslam announced Thursday that the state struck a deal with the online bookseller, clearing the way for Amazon to expand in Tennessee.

Amazon to Collect Sales Tax, Add Jobs in Tennessee: Report (Fox Business)

Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) will collect tax on its sales in Tennessee starting in 2014 while adding hundreds of full-time jobs at new distribution centers in the state, the Tennessean newspaper of Nashville quoted the governor as saying Thursday. Previously, the Seattle-based online retailer argued it didn’t have to collect Tennessee sales taxes, amid criticism from brick-and-mortar businesses and some lawmakers triggered by Amazon’s plan to open three distribution facilities in the state.

Amazon Agrees to Collect Sales Tax, Add More Jobs (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)

A huge new economic announcement and boost for Southeast Tennessee, and the entire state. Amazon.com announces that it will add an additional 2,000 jobs in Bradley and Hamilton counties, ultimately employing about 3,500 people.

Amazon deal may shift fight to legislature or Congress (Tennessean/Sisk)

Online retailer will begin collecting sales tax in Tennessee in 2014 An agreement between Gov. Bill Haslam and Amazon to begin collecting sales taxes may shift the battle to the state legislature and Congress. Haslam announced Thursday morning that Amazon will begin collecting sales tax from Tennessee customers starting Jan. 1, 2014, in exchange for the state’s continued support for its expansion plans.

TN Businesses: Tax puts Amazon on level playing field (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

You can buy almost anything on Amazon. The online retailer even stocks items Morgan Hardy, owner of Organized Play, offers in his shop located in The Old City. Hardy feels Amazon has had the advantage.

Retail group slams Haslam’s Amazon deal (Nashville Business Journal)

A retail group wasted no time today criticizing the deal struck between Gov. Bill Haslam and Amazon.com under which the Internet retailer will begin collecting sales taxes from Tennessee customers in 2014. The Alliance for Main Street Fairness, which boasts Walmart as its largest member and has long criticized Amazon for what it considers an unfair advantage when it comes to sales taxes, said the new deal continues to do just that.

Major retailers oppose Amazon deal (Tennessean/Sisk)

A business group opposed to Amazon’s tax treatment says it will continue to press its case in Washington and in Nashville, despite an announcement Thursday that the online giant will begin collecting sales taxes in Tennessee. The Alliance for Main Street Fairness, a Virginia-based organization backed by big-box retailers, said it will not accept a compromise between Tennessee officials and Amazon in which the company will start collecting sales tax in 2014 in exchange for continued state support for its expansion plans.

First Lady Reveals Garden Plan For Governor’s Mansion (WTVF-TV Nashville)

Tennessee’s First Lady held a luncheon Thursday to raise money for continuing restoration of the Governor’s residence. The Tennessee Governor’s Mansion was originally built for a family in 1929 and purchased by the state in 1949.

Books, Bubbles and Blues fundraiser for Books from Birth program (CDH)

Books, Bubbles and Blues will be held from 7-10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, at the Loveless Barn, located at 8400 Highway 100. Books, Bubbles and Blues, a great evening of fun and camaraderie, is being held this year to raise money for the Middle Tennessee Books from Birth program.

Greenback nurse arrested on TennCare fraud in Knoxville (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

A licensed practical nurse from Greenback is behind bars today on charges including TennCare fraud. Kelly McCarter, 32, was arrested Wednesday and booked into the Knox County Jail where she is being held in lieu of $5,000 bond, according to information from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Nurse accused of using patients’ names to get drugs for herself (WBIR-TV Knox.)

An East Tennessee nurse is accused of using her patients to get prescription drugs for herself. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrested Kelly McCarter, 32, of Greenback, on Wednesday.

State biologist says deer at Enterprise South Nature Park need thinning (Nooga)

The economic success of Enterprise South is putting pressure on the deer who have had the run of the 3,000 acre industrial park before the addition of A-list tenants Volkswagen and Amazon.com, a Tennessee wildlife specialist said Wednesday. Development of the former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant has forced the wildlife into a much smaller area, creating overcrowding and overloading the habitat, Ben Layton, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency big game biologist, told Hamilton County Commissioners Wednesday.

Commission aims to allow inexpensive legal counsel (Tennessean/Gee)

Program would provide lawyers on limited basis Tennesseans who represent themselves in the courtroom might be getting a leg up from a panel working to improve access to the courts. The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission is working on a proposal that would make it easier for litigants to temporarily hire a lawyer to handle the most critical aspects of their cases.

Former death row inmate to be released Friday (Associated Press/Loller)

A Memphis woman who spent 26 years on death row and came within two months of being executed will be freed Friday. Fifty-eight-year-old Gaile Owens will be released from the Tennessee Prison for Women just north of Nashville.

Gaile Owens leaves prison today (Tennessean/Haas)

This morning, Gaile Owens will take her last steps in the prison she’s known for nearly 30 years. She’ll make the long walk along a chain-link fence from the Tennessee Prison for Women to freedom. Gaile Owens is going home.

Gaile Owens to be released from prison Friday (WSMV-TV Nashville)

Gaile Owens, convicted of accessory to first-degree murder and sentenced to death for killing her husband in 1985 in Shelby County, is set to be released from the state prison Friday morning. Owens had been condemned to die for hiring a hitman to kill her abusive husband, but last year Gov. Phil Bredesen commuted that death sentence to life.

New Rules For Tennessee Voters (WPTY-TV Memphis)

Starting in 2012 voters in Tennessee will notice something a bit different. You’ll have to show your photo ID to cast your ballot and the state is sending out plenty of early notice.

Memphis voters choose 4 more years with Mayor Wharton (AP/Sainz)

Voters overwhelmingly re-elected Memphis mayor A C Wharton over nine rivals Thursday, giving the Democrat a hefty mandate to continue another four years after a short stint leading his impoverished Southern city through tough, gritty times. With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Wharton won with a commanding 65 percent of the votes cast to 28 percent for his nearest rival, Edmund Ford Sr., the brother of former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Sr. All others split the rest with James Harvey Sr., a commissioner from Shelby County surrounding Memphis, who lagged in third with nearly 3 percent in a race marked by light voter turnout, the count showed.

Wharton, Other Incumbents Win Easy Reelection (Memphis Flyer)

Unsurprisingly, there were no surprises in the 2011 Memphis city election— unless you count the apparent irrelevance of Mayor A C Wharton’s maiden effort at a Ford-style coattails ballot. Otherwise, the mayor — who breezed to an easy 2-to-1 victory over his closest opponent, former city councilman Edmund Ford Sr, and eight other opponents — had no worries.

Wharton, Fullilove & Conrad Re-Elected — Harris-Ford to Runoff (M. Daily News)

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. won a full four-year term of office as mayor Thursday, Oct. 6, two years after he claimed the mayor’s office in a special election. And all 12 of the Memphis City Council members seeking re-election won new four year terms in the city election cycle, marking the largest return of incumbents to the 13-member council in the 43-year history of the mayor-council form of government.

A C Wharton captures first full term as Memphis mayor (Commercial Appeal/Maki)

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton swept aside nine challengers and overcame fierce union opposition to snare a decisive election to his first full term in office. After months of campaigning, the outcome of the mayoral race was never really in doubt.

Voters return 12 of 13 Memphis City Council members (C. Appeal/Connolly, Maki)

A Nov. 10 runoff was assured in the District 7 City Council race, where candidates Kemba Ford and Lee Harris each got 24 percent of the vote in Thursday’s municipal election. In unofficial results reported by the Shelby County Election Commission, the two were four votes apart: Harris had 1,983 and Ford 1,979. Meanwhile, 12 of the 13 City Council members won re-election by overwhelming margins that ranged from 57 percent to 80 percent in the nine contested races.

Duncan: Cut deficit by clamping down on early retirement (News-Sentinel/Collins)

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. is urging the congressional “super committee” looking for ways to lower the federal deficit to seriously consider reducing the number of federal employees eligible for early retirement. The Knoxville Republican sent a letter to the panel this week and argued that the government could save billions of dollars by prohibiting all new federal workers from drawing federal pensions any earlier than age 62.

Memphis Bioworks gets $3.7M federal grant for jobs training (M. Biz Journal)

Memphis Bioworks Foundation has received $3.7 million of $159.2 million in grants the U.S. Department of Labor has awarded to 36 public-private organizations around the country Memphis Bioworks will host a press conference Oct. 7 at 10 a.m. to announce how it will utilize its share of the funding. It was the only Tennessee-based organization to receive funding.

Panel Urges Affordable Health Plans (Wall Street Journal)

Requirements for health-insurance plans offered through new government-run exchanges should be tailored to what small businesses can afford, a key report to the Obama administration recommended. The report—from the Institute of Medicine, an independent board that advises the government on health policy—will play a pivotal role in determining how the Department of Health and Human Services decides what benefits must be covered under plans offered on state-run insurance exchanges starting in 2014.

Some Unemployed Find Fault in Extension of Jobless Benefits (New York Times)

Dan Tolleson, a researcher and writer with a Ph.D. in politics, has been out of work since 2009, except for brief stints as a driver. Still, he opposes President Obama’s call for Congress to renew extensions on unemployment benefits. “They’re going to end up spending more money on unemployment benefits, while less money is coming in on tax returns,” he said, suggesting that the government should focus on measures that might encourage businesses to hire.

TVA ash spill consultant blames man-made slime (Associated Press)

Plaintiff attorneys who contend the Tennessee Valley Authority is liable and should pay damages for the Kingston Plant coal ash spill are waiting their turn to cross-examine TVA’s spill report consultant at a Knoxville trial. Geotechnical engineer William H. Walton oversaw a $3 million study by AECOM USA Inc. on the cause of the Dec. 22, 2008, ash spill.

TVA consultant testifies on ash spill lawsuits (Associated Press/Poovey)

An engineering consultant hired by the Tennessee Valley Authority to find the cause of its disastrous coal ash spill testified Thursday about his report that the utility’s watchdog agency has criticized as a TVA attempt to protect against damage lawsuits. Geotechnical engineer William H. Walton, who oversaw a $3 million study by AECOM USA Inc. on the cause of the Dec. 22, 2008 ash spill, described how he was hired and prepared the report that placed a lot of blame for a dike collapse on a “slime layer” of watery ash deep underneath the surface.

State called for investigation into possible falsified TVA reports (NS/Marcum)

At the urging of state officials, TVA’s Office of Inspector General launched an investigation into whether an ash handling foreman at the Kingston Fossil Plant at the time of the Dec. 22, 2008, coal fly ash spill had falsified water monitoring reports. But the agency brought no charges in the matter.

Many unemployed Americans have waited a year for a new job (Associated Press)

For more Americans, being out of work has become a semi-permanent condition. Nearly one-third of the unemployed — nearly 4.5 million people — have had no job for a year or more. That’s a record high. Many are older workers who have found it especially hard to find jobs.

Univ. of Memphis offers to restore physics program at Ridgeway High (CA/Roberts)

Nature and educators, it turns out, abhor a vacuum. In order to restore physics at Ridgeway High School, the University of Memphis is offering to cover lectures and labs at the school — five days a week — at no cost to Memphis City Schools. The tentative plan between MCS and the university was worked out in late-night and early-morning calls, according to Linda Sklar, head of the city schools optional programs.

Charter schools see mixed results in learning growth (Tennessean/Hubbard)

Charter schools in Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga showed mixed results from 2008-2011 in an analysis by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University. About half showed significant learning growth versus traditional public schools, according to a release by the Tennessee Charter School Incubator, launched in 2009 with help by Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.

Hamilton Co school system eyes Ooltewah location for new elementary (TFP/Hardy)

Hamilton County education officials will ask the County Commission to spend $875,000 on acquiring land where a new Ooltewah Elementary School eventually could be built. School board members are interested in 30 vacant acres just west of Interstate 75 off Ooltewah-Georgetown Road.

Hamilton County School STEM Program Update (WDEF-TV Chattanooga)

The Hamilton County School District STEM Program Initiative gained momentum Thursday after the latest approval by its school board. The unanimous approval was needed for them to apply for the grant and submit a letter of intent.

Lakeland votes to study municipal school sytem options (C. Appeal/Bailey)

Lakeland on Thursday night became the latest Shelby County suburb to hire a local consulting firm for a feasibility study on the city’s municipal school system options. The city’s Board of Commissioners’ unanimous voice vote to enter into a contract with Southern Educational Strategies LLC came as a bit of a surprise.

Kingsport BOE splices onto STEM school grant application (Times-News)

City school leaders still have questions and concerns about the proposal to have a joint STEM school with Sullivan County at Sullivan North High School. But the city Board of Education still voted 5-0 Thursday night to approve making a joint application for a $1 million Tennessee STEM platform school grant for Sullivan North, mirroring a 7-0 Monday vote by the Sullivan County BOE.

ACLU weighs in on Sequoyah High gay club controversy (News-Sentinel/Braden)

The American Civil Liberties Union is now involved after a family has reported to police that a Madisonville teen was assaulted by his high school principal. School representatives, without providing details of what they contend happened, deny the family’s assertions of an assault.

Alabama: Absenteeism down under Alabama immigration law (Associated Press)

Some Hispanic parents are returning their children to Alabama’s public schools after initially keeping them at home over fears about the state’s tough new immigration law. Others are withdrawing their children in preparation for moving out of state.

Illinois: Starting Early to Create City Teachers (New York Times)

The gap between the number of minority teachers in Chicago’s public schools and minority student enrollment has widened over the last decade, but one school is working to change that by preparing the next generation of teachers. At Wells Community Academy High School, where the racial breakdown of students is almost evenly split between African-Americans and Hispanics, more than 60 students are participating in a teacher training program that gets them to the front of the classroom years before most aspiring teachers.

OPINION

Editorial: Amazon redo fulfills greater good (Tennessean)

Gov. Bill Haslam’s announcement Thursday of an agreement that will have online retailer Amazon.com begin collecting Tennessee sales tax in 2014 heralds a decision that is, while belated, a significant step toward fairness that should preserve our state’s reputation as a great place to do business. According to news reports, Amazon, which previously had an open-ended exemption on sales-tax collection arranged by Gov. Phil Bredesen as part of a deal to bring distribution centers and new jobs to Tennessee, will invest $350 million and add 2,000 full-time jobs in the state over the next three years.

Guest columnist: Amazon.com gets three years to rack up (Tennessean)

It seems as though every week brings us more bad economic news. Tennessee’s unemployment rate is almost 10 percent. Businesses are closing up shop. Elected leaders are struggling with enormous budget shortfalls. But as many of our Tennessee-based companies struggle, one out-of-state giant, Amazon.com, has enjoyed record revenue growth throughout the first half of 2011.

Editorial: Women have many choices, options to grow businesses (Jackson Sun)

There is good news in Tennessee: More than 140,000 women in the state own a business. The number of women-owned businesses grew by almost 20 percent and the receipts from these firms grew by over 20 percent between 2002 and 2007.

Greg Johnson: Corker warned of debit card charges (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

When Bank of America last week announced a $5 monthly fee for debit card users, retailers rejoiced, bank customers revolted, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., remained in denial and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., likely said, “I told you so.” Bank of America, along with other banks, was driven to charge for debit card transactions due to the Durbin Amendment, a tiny piece in the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation purported to protect consumers.

Editorial: Schnucks drops the ball (Commercial Appeal)

The way Schnucks is treating some of its former employees after pulling out of the Memphis market stinks. First, the St. Louis-based company closes its area stores without giving employees adequate notice of the closings, and now we learn that Schnucks is not giving all of the employees a severance package.

Columnist: Where Are the Jobs? (New York Times)

Let’s imagine that someone from the year 1970 miraculously traveled forward in time to today. You could show her one of the iPhones that Steve Jobs helped create, and she’d be thunderstruck.

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