Press Releases

October 21 TN News Digest

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

State receives $16.2M in highway safety grants (Associated Press)

Tennessee is getting more than $16 million to support highway safety. Gov. Bill Haslam and state Transportation Commissioner John Schroer announced the grants on Thursday.

Gov. Haslam awards $16.2 million in highway safety grants (WVLT-TV Knoxville)

Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer announced a grant of $16.2 million to fund highway safety in Tennessee. The funds will continue to support the Governor’s Highway Safety Office’s (GHSO) mission to save lives and reduce injuries through leadership, innovation, coordination, and program support in partnership with numerous public and private orgainzations.

Federal dollars fuel DUI battle (Commercial Appeal)

Two sobriety and safety checkpoints that the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and Memphis Police Department conducted jointly Thursday were fueled by $10,000 in federally funded grants from the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, said sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Pope. Another checkpoint is planned for Dec. 2. Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer on Thursday announced $16.2 million in new Governor’s Highway Safety Office grants.

Local police, sheriff’s departments awarded funds to improve safety (W. Co. News)

Seven law enforcement agencies in Union City and Obion County have been awarded nine grants totaling nearly $70,000 to support highway safety Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transpor-tation Commissioner John Schroer today announced more than $16.2 million to support highway safety in Tennessee.  The funds support the mission of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office (GHSO) to save lives and reduce injuries on Tennessee roadways through leadership, innovation, coordination and program support in partnership with numerous public and private organizations Locally, grants were awarded to • Union City Police Department, Network Co-ordinator, $15,000 • Union City Police Department, Alcohol Ac-cident Reduction Program, $20,000;

Tenn. Governor urges flu vaccine use (Bristol Herald-Courier)

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, have rolled up their sleeves to get their annual vaccinations against influenza, and are urging fellow Tennesseans to do the same to help protect and promote good health in the state. Vaccination against the flu is the best way to protect yourself and your family from this illness.

Governor proclaims Lights On Afterschool Day (Jackson Sun)

As sundown comes sooner and night falls earlier, it is time for Lights On Afterschool Day, when YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, child and community centers and other child advocates honor afterschool programs. Gov. Bill Haslam has joined these groups and the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth by naming today as Lights On Afterschool Day in Tennessee, according to a news release.

Hagerty strives for small steps with business growth (Nashville Business Journal)

Commissioner Bill Hagerty worked the room carefully. It was Bill Haslam’s first Conference on Economic and Community Development, and the Republican governor’s man on that front shook hands warmly and probed each person with focused questions.

Hagerty optimistic about state’s future (Weakley County News)

Bill Hagerty is quite certain Tennessee is uniquely positioned for significant economic growth. His enthusiasm and commitment to promoting the state are having a positive impact on the state’s business climate.

September Tennessee unemployment up 9.8 percent (Associated Press)

Tennessee’s September unemployment rate of 9.8 percent rose slightly from the previous month. The August rate was 9.7 percent.

Tennessee unemployment rate rises to 9.8% in September (Memphis Biz Journal)

Tennessee’s unemployment rate rose slightly in September to 9.8 percent from 9.7 percent in August. The state’s unemployment rate remains higher than the national rate, which stood at 9.1 percent in September.

State jobless rate up in September (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Tennessee’s September unemployment rate of 9.8 percent rose slightly from the previous month. The August rate was 9.7 percent.

TN economy needs ‘serious action,’ researcher says (Tennessean/Allyn)

Tennessee’s per capita economic growth is among the weakest in the country, and the state is growing slower than some of its peers. Those bits of harsh data were part of the message that Harvard economic researcher Christian Ketels delivered to an audience of business leaders on Thursday morning at an executive breakfast sponsored by First Tennessee Bank and others.

TN among top states raising energy efficiency (Tennessean/Young)

Tennessee has been named one of the six most improved states for energy efficiency, according to the fifth annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard released Thursday by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Tennessee is ranked 30 in the U.S., but Michael Sciortino, the council’s senior policy analyst and the report’s lead author, said significant gains were made in the state score.

96-year-old Chattanooga woman obtains voter ID (Associated Press)

A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety says a 96-year-old Chattanooga woman who was denied a photo identification card has obtained one. Earlier this month, Dorothy Cooper went to a Driver Service Center to get the free identification card offered by the state as part of the new voter identification law that takes effect next year.

96-year-old Dorothy Cooper finally gets ID to vote (Times Free-Press/Haman)

Dorothy Cooper, 96, clutched her new voter ID in an envelope Thursday afternoon and said, “I can rest my mind.” “When you’re as old as I am, you don’t need all of this on you,” Cooper said while sitting in the parking lot of the state Driver Service Center in Red Bank, where she went to get the identification card.

Dean’s healthy living director leaves for TDOT position (City Paper/Garrison)

Mayor Karl Dean’s director of healthy living is heading to the Tennessee Department of Transportation to serve as the department’s chief of environment and planning. Adetokunbo “Toks” Omishakin will begin his position next week, according to TDOT spokeswoman B.J. Doughty.

ETSU names 3 finalists to be next president (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

The search committee at East Tennessee State University narrowed its search to three finalists vying to be the next president there, including a West Virginia leader who also was a finalist to be system president at the University of Tennessee this time last year. Brian Noland, who once worked at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and now heads a similar state higher education agency in West Virginia, was beat out for the UT presidency in October 2010.

Final 3: ETSU finalists picked (Johnson City Press)

Three finalists to be the ninth president of East Tennessee State University were selected Thursday for on-campus visits next week. The following three people were selected from a pool of eight semi-finalists interviewed Wednesday and Thursday at the Millennium Centre by the ETSU presidential search advisory committee: Robert Frank, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Kent State University.

Incoming UT pharmacy dean honored for research (Associated Press)

The newly appointed dean for the College of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis has won an award for her research. Marie Chisholm-Burns is the winner of the Pharmacy Practice Research Award from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

County Commission recommends Pellissippi Extension Alternative A (Daily Times)

The Blount County Commission voted Thursday to recommend Alternative A as its preferred alternative route for the proposed Pellissippi Parkway Extension. The Tennessee Department of Transportation had asked the cities of Alcoa and Maryville and Blount County to state their preference of no build or one of three other alternatives.

THP: When in doubt, stop for the school bus (Jackson Sun)

Tennessee Highway Patrol officials have said they would like to remind the public to follow traffic laws that keep children safe as they are transported to and from school. The reminder comes during National School Bus Safety Week.

Trial Judges Seek Lobbyist (TN Report)

Tennessee judges are ready to fight back against legislative efforts to revamp the Court of the Judiciary, evidenced this week when members of the Trial Judges’ Association voted to hire a lobbyist to represent them in the debate. The trial judges voted to increase their dues with a one-time assessment of $200 each in order to help get their message out to legislators.

TN judges may gain political voice, face tighter recusal rules (Tennessean/Gee)

Tennessee judges weighed in on a proposed overhaul of their ethics rules Thursday at this fall’s Tennessee Judicial Conference, which continues today in Cool Springs. If the proposed rules are approved, judges will be freer to participate in politics but face tighter restrictions over stepping down from cases because of conflicts of interest.

House Should Play Role in Kelsey’s Judicial Confirmation Reform Proposal (TNR)

Speaker of the House Beth Harwell said Wednesday she would insist that the House have a say in approval of judges under a constitutional amendment proposed by Sen. Brian Kelsey, while Gov. Bill Haslam expressed openness to Kelsey’s plan. Kelsey’s proposal would have state appellate judges appointed by the governor and subject to confirmation by the Senate, similar to the way judges are appointed at the federal level.

Nomination plan draws skepticism among TN judges (Tennessean/Gee)

Judges attending this fall’s Tennessee Judicial Conference in Cool Springs aren’t sold on a lawmaker’s plan to revamp the way the state’s most powerful judges are selected. Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, filed a proposed constitutional amendment this week that, if approved, would see members of the state Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals selected in a manner similar to federal judges, who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Lawmakers, governor consider school vouchers (WSMV-TV Nashville)

State lawmakers are pushing a plan to give parents vouchers to decide where their children should go to school, and the governor is taking a serious look at it. State Sen. Brian Kelsey says he wants to make sure students are getting the best education they can.

Drug tests for welfare recipients raise debate (Tennessean/Brooks)

Critics see bills as piling on the poor As the economy drives more and more people to seek public assistance, an increasing number of states are debating whether that aid should go only to applicants who can pass a drug test. This year, 36 states have introduced bills to require drug testing for welfare recipients.

Growth after metro charter depends on state (Columbia Daily Herald)

Spring Hill and Mt. Pleasant’s growth could be frozen in its tracks if a metropolitan government comes to pass, but a board that has drafted a metro charter will ask state lawmakers who represent Maury County to step in to protect those cities’ ability to expand. Bill Gentner, chairman of the 15-member Maury County Charter Commission, said he hopes state Rep. Sheila Butt and state Sen. Bill Ketron will introduce legislation allowing the urban growth boundaries for Mt. Pleasant and Spring Hill to be considered the corporate limits of those cities.

Federal law sought after raids on Gibson Guitar (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Two members of Congress from Tennessee announced federal legislation Thursday seeking to quell fears among owners of musical instruments and other products made from imported wood that they could face prosecution under a law that has led to raids on Gibson Guitar Corp. Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper and Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn said at a press conference in a Nashville recording studio that the bill would protect people from prosecution for unknowingly possessing illegally imported wood, and would require the federal government to establish a database of forbidden wood sources.

Nashville Congressmen Offer Revisions to Lacey Act (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Two Nashville-area Congressmen are trying to ease the conservation law that has Gibson Guitar under federal investigation. Lawmakers are using interest in the case to push through the changes.

Cooper, Blackburn seek protection for musicians after Gibson raid (N. Biz Journal)

A duo of Tennessee lawmakers introduced a bill today aimed at protecting musicians whose instruments were manufactured with wood that became illegal to use under 2008 amendments to the Lacey Act. The legislation would safeguard any foreign wood products that a person owned before May 22, 2008, the date the amendments to the Lacey Act took effect.

Occupy Chattanooga protesters to target U.S. House Speaker Boehner (TFP/Carroll)

Boehner? Bummer. So says Occupy Chattanooga, the local anti-Wall Street group planning to protest U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s visit Thursday to a fundraiser for Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann. According to an event listing on Facebook, organizers plan to picket near the $1,000-a-couple benefit “from dawn until dusk” to “make John Boehner listen.”

States retool food stamp, benefits systems (Stateline)

Food stamp applicants in California and Texas no longer have to be fingerprinted, a change both states hope will save money and improve the process of distribution. That makes Arizona and New York City the only remaining jurisdictions that fingerprint — a requirement that opponents say scares off the needy from applying for food stamps while doing little to combat fraud.

Senate Blocks Funds for State Workers (Wall Street Journal)

The Senate blocked a proposal Thursday to send $35 billion to states to retain or rehire teachers and other public sector workers, marking a second setback for President Barack Obama’s jobs package. The vote was 50-50 on a procedural issue, leaving the bill short of the 60 votes it needed to advance.

Medicare Program for Doctor Groups Gets Looser Rules (Wall Street Journal)

The Obama administration on Thursday loosened the rules for a new program that encourages doctors and hospitals to coordinate care for groups of Medicare patients, after providers complained preliminary guidelines were unworkable. The program—a part of the 2010 health overhaul designed to cut costs—provides incentives for groups of medical professionals to provide every aspect of a patient’s care, including preventive medicine and treatment after a patient leaves the hospital.

Researcher who inspired Haslam ECD policies touts ideas (Nashville Biz Journal)

One of the researchers who inspired Gov. Bill Haslam’s economic development policies brought his ideas to Nashville this week, proclaiming that leveraging strategic industry clusters yields “higher returns” for job creation. Christian Ketels, a principal associated at Harvard Business School ’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, said research by him and others shows targeting economic clusters makes for more efficient use of tax dollars and other resources, spurs natural growth going forward and provides the right balance of specialization and diversification.

Montgomery Co. educators, parents question emphasis on TCAP (Leaf Chronicle)

Some Clarksville-Montgomery County parents and legislators are concerned about new state laws that make standardized testing part of a student’s class grades. In the report card students bring home today, parents of students in grades three through eight will see a new, empty column labeled “TCAP” to go along with the usual quarter and semester grade columns for core classes.

Chattanoogans Tell School Board, Transition Committee How Unification Went (MF)

Four veterans of school consolidation in Chattanooga — two white and two black — offered some advice and good wishes Thursday evening to their counterparts in Memphis, but the inescapable conclusion is that the job is going to be much harder here. In fact, one of the visitors — Jesse Register, the first superintendent of a unified Chattanooga/Hamilton County school system — took a dim view of the escape clause in this year’s Norris-Todd bill that allows suburban communities a shot at separate special school districts when the merger of the Memphis and Shelby County systems becomes final on September 1, 2012.

California: ‘Instant Runoff’ Faces Test (Wall Street Journal)

Voters here have used an unorthodox method to pick elected officials since approving the “ranked-choice” approach in 2002. Next month, this system will be put to its first real test by a contentious mayoral race.

Texas: In Bid to Cut Costs at Prisons, Lunch Will Not Be Served on Weekends (NYT)

Texas prison officials last month ended the decades-old practice of serving last meals to inmates about to be executed after one man ordered an elaborate feast of hamburgers, pizza and chicken-fried steaks that he did not eat. But the 300 inmates on death row are not the only ones coping with food restrictions.


Editorial: Reform NCLB law and send to Obama before end of year (Jackson Sun)

Just when we thought there might be a ray of hope for bipartisanship and common sense logic in Washington, our hopes were dashed. Efforts to reform the No Child Left Behind law were sidetracked by partisan ideology and inexplicable changes to the proposed legislation.

Editorial: Leader missing opportunity to focus House on Tenn. economy (N-S)

The arrest earlier this month of state Rep. Curry Todd on alcohol and gun charges offers lawmakers a chance to put a couple of controversial firearms measures on the back burner and turn their attention to Tennessee’s economy. The Republican from Collierville, a retired police officer, was arrested Oct. 11 and charged with drunk driving, carrying a firearm while under the influence and refusing a Breathalyzer test.

Times Editorial: Fighting childhood obesity (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Data gathered and disseminated by the State Department of Health indicates that about 40 percent of Tennessee’s children are overweight or obese. The immediate and long-term consequences of such alarming excess weight for the kids, individually and for society in general, are substantial.

Guest columnist: Wilderness protection sought (Tennessean)

Throughout my lifetime as a businessman in real estate as well as a volunteer with a number of environmental organizations, I have sought to build public support and understanding for the importance of conservation of our natural resources. In my mind, conservation should be part of everyone’s everyday way of life.

Free-Press Editorial: Rep. Fleischmann focuses on smaller government (TFP)

With the people of our country facing serious financial challenges, our Chattanooga-area member of Congress, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, had some sound advice when he spoke Wednesday at a business leader roundtable at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. Fleischmann specified four urgent goals: gaining stability in the marketplace, reducing government regulation, confronting the heavy influence of unions and simplifying the federal tax code. Properly dealing with those issues will “help businesses grow, expand the workforce and produce more capital,” the congressman said.

Editorial: A good time for a time out (Commercial Appeal)

Supporters of a temporary moratorium on new charter schools in Shelby County have a strong case for a delay. The number of local charter schools will surely grow in the shadow of the new unified city-county school system, which will officially come together in the fall of 2013.

Diane Black: Obamacare continues to reveal its many flaws (Daily News Journal)

Recently, the Obama administration tried to sweep under the rug the news that a major program in its health care takeover has failed. The Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act, a long-term care program that was touted for its billions in savings, was shelved indefinitely by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week.


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