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October 12 TN News Digest

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

Canberra to expand in Oak Ridge (Business Clarksville)

CANBERRA Industries, Inc., a developer and manufacturer of radiation detection solutions, will transition its safeguards and military product development and manufacturing to its Oak Ridge facility. The announcement represents a capital investment of $1.2 million and the creation of 45 additional jobs at the facility over the next three years, doubling the plant’s current workforce.

CANBERRA doubling workforce at Oak Ridge facility (WVLT-TV Knoxville)

CANBERRA Industries, Inc. will move its safeguards and military product placement and manufacturing to its Oak Ridge facility, Gov. Bill Haslam and Oak Ridge Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty announced on Monday. They said the planned transition will add 45 jobs to the plant on Union Valley Rd., doubling its workforce over the next three years, and will include a $1.2 million capital investment.

Amazon deal is no tax hike, Haslam says (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sher)

Gov. Bill Haslam is finding support among area lawmakers for his argument that Amazon’s voluntary agreement with the state to collect sales taxes doesn’t constitute a tax increase on the company’s Tennessee customers. In announcing last week’s renegotiated deal with the online retail giant, Haslam declared “this isn’t a new tax; this tax was already due.

Electrolux plant expansion breaks ground (Robertson County Times)

Officials on Monday, Sept. 10 broke ground on the new expansion at the Electrolux plant that will bring 75 jobs to Springfield. “I want to congratulate Electrolux on its decision to expand the Springfield facility and bring new jobs to Robertson County,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a written statement.

Spring Hill in running for two trail grants (Tennessean/Wiersma)

Each school day, members of a walking club make their way up Spring Station Drive alongside heavy traffic. “It’s been pretty small up to this point,” parent Millie Halvorson said of the group.

Park may be used to raise revenue (Tennessean/Walters)

Franklin city leaders will explore whether they can rewrite the conservation easement limiting what can and can’t happen at its Civil War themed park in an effort to collect more money for the city. Whether they’re actually allowed to change that original 2005 agreement remains an unknown.

Spring Hill seeks new walking trails (Columbia Daily Herald)

A recent rise in pedestrian traffic has led Spring Hill officials to seek state funding for two walking trails. Last week city officials applied for a grant that would help fund sidewalk projects creating access to Spring Station Middle School and Summit High School.

Business Briefs (Farragut Press)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced the award of an $818,880 transportation enhancement grant to the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development for Phase III of the Civil War Driving Trail. The Civil War Driving Trail is a multi-phased program that has established a statewide network of directional and historical signage to be used in conjunction with the Tennessee Civil War map/guide and applicable map/guides developed by individual localities.

Woman sentenced for TennCare fraud (Jackson Sun)

A Madison County woman has been sentenced in McNairy County after pleading guilty to charges of TennCare fraud. The Office of Inspector General announced that Jalesha Lashae Heard, 41, of Bethel Springs, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of TennCare fraud and two counts of theft of services.

Tenn. tourism officials announce 9th driving trail (Tennessean)

State officials on Wednesday will announce the ninth of 16 self-guided driving trails in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program. The trail spans 514 miles throughout Middle Tennessee, traveling through Cumberland, Davidson, DeKalb, Jackson, Putnam, Smith, White and Wilson counties.

County enjoys $12M boost in local tourism (Daily News Journal)

The numbers are in and tourism is booming in Rutherford County. So much so that the county saw an increase of $11.9 million in tourist spending from 2009 to 2010, according to figures released by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the U.S. Travel Association.

College ag programs delight in delivering campus cuisine (Tennessean/Brooks)

At Middle Tennessee State University this morning, students are pouring milk over their breakfast cereal. That’s because yesterday morning their classmates were up with the cows to make sure that milk got to the table.

New Life Lodge rehab center wants wrongful death lawsuit tossed (TN/Rau)

Parent company CRC Health claims filing was flawed The parent company for the state’s largest drug rehabilitation center is asking a Dickson County judge to dismiss a $32 million lawsuit brought on by the mother of a young woman who died after checking into the facility last year. In its Sept. 30 filing in Dickson County Circuit Court, CRC Health claimed Kathy Mauk’s attorney did not follow the proper legal process for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Efforts to restore bobwhite quail to be discussed (Tennessean/Paine)

The state’s official but declining game bird — bobwhite quail — is set for discussion at a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission committee meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday. Don McKenzie, with the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, will talk about efforts to restore them.

Suit claims VA negligent in suicide (Associated Press)

The widow of an Iraq war veteran from Tennessee claims in a lawsuit that the Veterans Affairs was negligent in failing to diagnose and treat his post-traumatic stress disorder before he committed suicide in 2008. The suit filed Tuesday in federal court in Greeneville says staff at the VA hospital in Mountain City did not adequately treat Scott Walter Eiswert, of Greeneville before his suicide.

New state workers’ comp exemptions take effect (Associated Press)

A new state law allows more people to become eligible for exemptions from workers’ compensation. According to the Secretary of State’s office, business owners in construction services can opt out of the requirement to cover themselves with workers’ compensation insurance if they meet certain ownership requirements.

Tennessee may soon require drug testing for government assistance (H-C)

Some people applying for government assistance may have to submit to a drug test in the future. Three dozen states are considering drug testing for welfare, food stamp and public housing recipients, according to the New York Times.

House redistricting plan moves Niceley out of Knox (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

Tentative plans for redrawing Knox County state House districts put state Rep. Frank Niceley outside the county, give Democratic Rep. Harry Tindell more Republican voters and create a new district without an incumbent. The broad outline of the plan is dictated, in substantial part, by population figures and legal requirements, according to legislators involved in the process.

Shelby County may lose seats in the Tennessee legislature (C. Appeal/Locker)

Shelby County would lose two state House seats and one Senate seat in a secretive redistricting process under way in the Republican-controlled Tennessee legislature, and the League of Women Voters is hosting a free Memphis screening tonight of a documentary film on the issue. “Gerrymandering,” a nonpartisan documentary aimed at educating citizens about the implications of redrawing congressional and state electoral boundaries every 10 years based on new census data, will be shown at 6:30 p.m. at the Evergreen Theatre, 1705 Poplar.

Alleged Sunshine Law violation puts Hawkins County voter map at risk (T-N)

An alleged meeting of three Hawkins County commissioners that took place prior to the Sept. 26 Hawkins County Commission meeting “may” be a violation of the state’s Sunshine Law, according to an attorney with the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office. Enforcement of such alleged violations is left up to the community, however, in the form of potential lawsuits filed by private citizens.

City, state officials to host roundtable (Leaf Chronicle)

City and state officials are hosting a business roundtable in Clarksville Thursday afternoon. Ward 1 Councilman Nick Steward said he and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey wanted to host this event to discuss business issues in the city or at the state level.

Davidson clerk’s emails show wedding fee charged (Associated Press)

After an investigation by WTVF-TV showed the Davidson County Clerk was taking $40 from couples to perform marriages, he defended himself by call the money a “gratuity.” But in emails obtained by the station under the state’s open records law, Clerk John Arriola himself refers to the money as a “fee.”

Facing Cuts, a City Repeals Its Domestic Violence Law (New York Times)

The startling vote came up at a City Council meeting here on Tuesday, provoked by a run-of-the-mill budget dispute over services that had spun out of control: decriminalize domestic violence. Three arms of government, all ostensibly representing the same people, have been at an impasse over who should be responsible for — and pay for — prosecuting people accused of misdemeanor cases of domestic violence.

Battling the bugs: Invasive pests strain state and local budgets (Stateline)

When John Binegar strolls under the shade of a Southeast Michigan forest, he doesn’t much like what surrounds him: dead and dying ash trees, many of which stood tall for decades. The trees have provided a large slice of revenue for Binegar’s saw mill, Hardwoods of Michigan.

TVA coal ash trial at closing arguments (Associated Press)

After closing arguments in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal ash trial, there won’t be a quick decision. A federal judge later Thursday begins what could be a months-long process of deciding if the nation’s largest public utility is liable for the disaster.

TVA concludes its defense in coal fly ash trial (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Marcum)

In the middle of the fourth week of the Kingston ash spill trial, lawyers for both sides rested their cases Tuesday and are expected to present closing arguments today. Lawyers for 230 plaintiffs suing TVA over the 2008 coal ash spill and lawyers representing TVA wrapped up their examination of witnesses early Tuesday afternoon.

TVA change may make big solar projects less attractive to businesses (WATE-TV)

Large commercial operations might be less likely to turn to the power of the sun after changes to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s solar energy program. A 500-kilowatt project was just announced at Wampler’s Farm Sausage in Lenoir City, and installers say hundreds of jobs were created from it.

Development buzz lags near Music City Center (Tennessean/Allyn)

Landowners hope interest will build Less than 18 months before the Music City Center is due to open, debate has renewed over the extent to which the convention hall will deliver on its promise of igniting commercial real estate development south of downtown. Already, the massive Omni Hotel project and the proposed doubling in size of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum by 2014 have been announced, but some nearby property owners with major financial stakes say additional retail or office projects have been very slow to develop.

Red Flags for Green Energy (Wall Street Journal)

Delays, Other Hiccups Dog U.S.-Backed Environmental Projects Beyond Solyndra While Solyndra LLC’s flameout has fueled criticism of federal initiatives to encourage alternative power sources, the solar-panel maker is hardly the only disappointment among U.S.-backed energy programs. That’s evident in California, which was awarded $4.6 billion by the Energy Department as part of the 2009 Recovery Act—far more than any other state—to fund programs in energy efficiency and other areas.

Groups attack school bill (Education Week)

The school accountability system at the heart of the No Child Left Behind Act would be completely reinvented under a proposal released Tuesday by Sen. Tom Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The measure, which is being decried by civil rights groups as a step backward when it comes to accountability for the education of poor and minority children, would scrap the 10-year-old law’s signature yardstick, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP.

Bill Would Overhaul No Child Left Behind (New York Times)

A senior Senate Democrat released a draft of a sprawling revision of the No Child Left Behind education law on Tuesday that would dismantle the provisions of the law that used standardized test scores in reading and math to label tens of thousands of public schools as failing. The 865-page bill, filed by Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who heads the Senate education committee, became the first comprehensive piece of legislation overhauling the law to reach either Congressional chamber since President George W. Bush signed it in 2002.

Knox superintendent: Budget options include school closures (N-S/McCoy)

McIntyre asking board to look at five areas to help budget While no recommendations have been made, Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre, is asking the school board to begin discussions on a number of options to address an upcoming $7 million loss in its budget. Those options include the consolidation and closing of five small schools, outsourcing custodian jobs, looking at high school staffing to support block scheduling, school start times and community use of facilities, McIntyre said in a memo to the board on Tuesday.

Bradley schools, insurer negotiating tornado settlement (Times Free-Press/Higgins)

Negotiations continue between Bradley County Schools and its insurance company six months after the April 27 tornadoes destroyed or damaged several schools. Architect Angie Lyons told the Bradley County Board of Education on Tuesday that final fire marshal approval is expected within days on the reconstruction work at Michigan Avenue Elementary School, where the gymnasium was destroyed.

Unified School Board Meets, Elects Orgel Chairman (Memphis Flyer)

Though there was persistent (but polite) niggling about whose rules of procedures should be followed on this or that point, the former boards of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools, along with seven new members appointed to a 23-member unified county school board by the Shelby County Commission got along well enough in the new board’s debut Monday night. The meeting, held at the Teaching and Learning Academy at Union and Hollywood, was chaired by David Pickler, the longtime chairman of the SCS Board, who jested to a reporter before things got underway, “Well, you’re going to have to retire the term ‘perennial chairman’ when you write about me.”

New School Board Has Changes on Mind (Memphis Daily News)

At four hours, the first meeting of the countywide school board Monday, Oct. 10, was a bit shorter than the average Memphis City Schools board meeting. It was twice as long as the longest Shelby County Schools board meeting.

Carter Cares: LEAP grant took a leap in the wrong direction (Herald-Courier)

Carter County cut a popular after-school program in half this year after a major change in state funding. “Carter Cares” serves students at risk of failing, and students who need help passing state math and reading exams.

Schools go home through eLearning (Times-Gazette)

Students in Bedford and surrounding counties have a new educational option — online courses offered by the Bedford County Board of Education in their eLearning program. The county has made use of eLearning for six years now, with classes mostly offered to homebound students, those at risk of dropping out and for classroom credit recovery.

Michigan: Pension Changes May Be Model for Struggling States (Business Week)

Michigan’s “radical reform” 14 years ago to rescue its retirement system by placing newly hired workers in a 401(k) program may show struggling states the way back from the worst pension crisis ever. Thirty-three states have assets less than 80 percent of what is needed to pay promised benefits, a common threshold for sustainability, according to an annual study of pensions by Bloomberg Rankings.

Texas: Schools Sue State Over Budget Cuts (Associated Press)

A coalition of more than 150 Texas school districts said Tuesday that it had filed a lawsuit against the state over a funding system it says is unfair, inefficient and unconstitutional. The group represents more than 10 percent of Texas districts.

OPINION

Editorial: Amazon deal good effort to bring jobs to Midstate (Daily News Journal)

In the cutthroat world of economic recruiting, state and local officials should be commended for making deals that could bring Amazon.com and some 1,150 jobs to Murfreesboro. Gov. Bill Haslam brokered a compromise with the Internet retail giant that will require it to start collecting sales taxes and remitting the money to the state in 2014 in return for the company’s commitment to invest $350 million in the state in new distribution centers and bring its workforce here to 3,500.

Editorial: Expansion of two ET companies to bring needed jobs (News-Sentinel)

Amid an atmosphere of economic uncertainty, two local companies announced last week they would be expanding. Holston Gases, which distributes industrial, medical and specialty gases in several states, will build a new facility at the Brookside Mills property in North Knoxville.

Editorial: Teacher reports should be refined (Leaf Chronicle)

Among the requirements of Tennessee’s First to the Top Act is that principals in public schools perform four official observations for experienced teachers and six for apprentice teachers. They also are required to spend more time on paperwork, writing reports.

Guest columnist: ‘Good, bad, ugly’ typical in K-12 (Tennessean)

TN has much to celebrate, much to improve upon While the Tennessee state slogan, “America at its best” is one of pride and achievement, when we look to the current state of Tennessee’s education system we are reminded of a common catchphrase: “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” It is no coincidence that we chose the latter slogan for the title of a report published by the National Chamber Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Institute for a Competitive Workforce.

Guest columnists: Global access to education is critical (Tennessean)

Sixty-seven million children worldwide did not attend school this year. Most of them were girls, who will be impacted throughout their lives in the form of lower wages and poor health. America will be impacted, as well. Education is one of the most effective ways to reduce global poverty.

Editorial: New district, new hopes (Commercial Appeal)

Delta is cutting flights in and out of Memphis; the Grizzlies’ season opener is cancelled due to a labor dispute; and four Memphis schools are in the new statewide Achievement School District — so far. Searching for positive signs in the headlines hasn’t been easy this week. The last item is especially disheartening but not surprising, considering the poor state of affairs in public education.

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