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October 27 TN News Digest

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

Haslam Sprinkles Budget Hearings in Memphis, Knoxville, Capitol (TN Report)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that portions of the Fiscal Year 2012-2013 budget hearings will take place outside of Nashville so that citizens in East and West Tennessee have an opportunity to attend. Hearings will be held in Knoxville and Memphis, which will mark the first time in state history that budget proceedings will occur away from the State Capitol.

Haslam adds Knoxville, Memphis to budget hearings (Associated Press)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam says he will hold public budget hearings outside the Capitol for the first time when he begins the annual review at the University of Memphis on Nov. 2 The governor said he will also hold hearings in Knoxville, as well as at the usual site at the state Capitol. Haslam announced the changes in a video posted on YouTube on Wednesday. Haslam said his goal is to assemble a budget proposal that can pass unanimously in the General Assembly, just as his first annual spending plan did in May.

Haslam will take budget hearings on road, Web (Commercial Appeal/Locker)

Former governor Phil Bredesen opened the governor’s annual budget hearings with state agencies to the public for the first time, and streamed them live on the Internet. Now Gov. Bill Haslam is taking the concept of open budget hearings a step further by taking them on the road — opening them in Memphis next week.

Civil Rights Museum Kicks Off Capital Campaign (Memphis Daily News)

As he became governor of Tennessee in January, Bill Haslam encountered first-hand the drawing power and the dilemma of the National Civil Rights Museum. Haslam twisted his way through a packed museum on the observance of the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in 1968 on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel – which is now the museum. It was two days after Haslam took the oath of office as governor.

‘Road to Recovery’ marks 6 month anniversary (Cleveland Daily Banner)

Gov. Bill Haslam and first lady Crissy Haslam will lead dedication ceremonies Thursday for a Bradley County family’s home rebuilt following the devastating tornadoes six months ago. The governor’s office earlier confirmed the visit will take place six months to the day that five twisters claimed nine lives, destroyed 285 homes and badly damaged hundreds of others.

Magnusson honored as Middle Tenn. Teacher of the Year (Crossville Chronicle)

Jennifer Magnusson has been named the Middle Tennessee Teacher of the Year. The first-grade teacher at Pleasant Hill Elementary was honored Thursday at a banquet where the state Teacher of the Year and winners from each of Tennessee’s Grand Divisions were honored.

Tennessee adds government employees through recession (Memphis Biz Journal)

Reducing the size of government is a hot-button issue across the U.S. but while most of the country’s businesses were downsizing through the recession, many state governments were growing. Tennessee is one of 22 states that has increased its number of government employees since 2007, according to a new analysis by MBJ affiliate On Numbers.

Occupy Nashville protesters may be ousted from Legislative Plaza (TN/Brooks)

Some say they will stand their ground Occupy Nashville protesters say they’ve been ordered out of Legislative Plaza by the state after a three-week occupation. Protesters say they’re willing to be arrested rather than comply.

Death prompts new probe of New Life Lodge (Tennessean/Rau, Loche)

The health care provided at the state’s largest drug rehabilitation facility is part of an investigation into the death of an 18-year-old man who was under the custody of the Department of Children’s Services. Savon N. Kinney died Sunday at Regional Hospital of Jackson, Tenn., nine days after he left New Life Lodge, the troubled drug rehab center in Dickson County. State officials declined to comment on the nature of Kinney’s death, citing confidentiality laws.

State plans Halloween monitoring of offenders (Columbia Daily Herald)

State probation and parole officers will be making announced and unannounced visits with sex offenders to make sure they are complying with restrictions during Halloween and fall events such as haunted houses and corn mazes. The offenders cannot answer the door for trick-or-treaters, pass out candy, decorate their homes, host Halloween parties or wear costumes.

Options studied for keeping lottery scholarships solvent (AP/Johnson)

Tennessee lawmakers are considering ways to prevent the state’s lottery scholarship program from going broke. State officials say if the lottery scholarship program isn’t changed, it could run out of money in a little over a decade. Most of the scenarios being discussed would cut the number of students eligible or how much money they get.

Proposal calls for cutting in half lottery scholarships for some students (CA/Locker)

State policymakers are examining a plan that would cut in half the $4,000-per-year Hope Scholarship at four-year colleges for students who achieve only one of the program’s two eligibility criteria. Currently, high school graduates who make either 21 on the ACT college entrance exam or have a 3.0 high school GPA qualify for the base $4,000 annual scholarship at four-year institutions in Tennessee or $2,000 at two-year schools.

Proposal Would Halve Scholarships for Less-Qualified (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

State lawmakers may cut costs to the lottery scholarship program by steering more students toward community colleges. Right now the Hope Scholarship program pays out more money than it brings in each year. To get a lottery scholarship right now a high-schooler needs a 3.0 GPA or a 21 on the ACT.

Citizens Slow to Submit Redistricting Plans as Deadline Nears (WPLN-Radio Nash.)

For the first time, this year any Tennessean with a computer can take a crack at redrawing voting lines for seats in Congress and the General Assembly. The once-every-decade redistricting process is underway, led by Republicans in the legislature. Despite the opportunity for input, citizens have remained silent. Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says in a statement he’s glad to live in a state where “the political will and the technological tools exist to allow this kind of open process.”

Voter ID debate hits college campuses (Tennessean/Sisk)

Students can’t use school IDs at polls A college student’s university identification card gets used a lot. The card is probably needed to check out a book from the library or to pass security in a dorm, but the uses go far beyond that.

Memphis-area voters get info on photo ID law (Commercial Appeal/Callahan)

The gist: Even an expired driver’s license acceptable In most areas of Tennessee, it’s easier to vote than it is to pay for your groceries with a check. To cast a ballot in Tennessee, voters simply need to show something with their signature on it.

State Election Coordinator’s Memphis Visit Highlights Photo-ID Battle (M. Flyer)

Even before the 2012 elections themselves take place in Tennessee, a war has begun over the ground rules for voting — specifically over the law, passed in the 2011 General Assembly, requiring would-be voters to present an officially recognized photo ID at their polling place. Against a background of charges that the law was passed as part of a Republican-backed national effort to suppress turnout among likely Democratic voters, especially seniors and low-income voters, and of efforts to change the law, a series of informational events have been scheduled in Memphis, including two this week featuring Tennessee Election Coordinator Mark Goins.

Suburban Shelby Co. Commissioners could rise with redistricting (CA/Connolly)

The suburbs are likely to gain voting power on the Shelby County Commission as the board adjusts its district lines to deal with population shifts. The current commission includes three representatives from outside the city of Memphis and 10 who come from urban districts or mostly urban districts.

Bredesen: Politics Behind Report on Farr, Tax Variances (TN Report)

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen said Tuesday he believes the people who disagreed with former Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr “got their final shot in” against Farr with a recent comptroller’s report that criticized the department on tax variances. Bredesen said he has not read the report from Comptroller Justin Wilson but has talked briefly about it with Farr and that he has never had any questions about Farr’s integrity.

Bredesen to stump for Obama, warns Dems against old ideas (Associated Press)

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen will campaign for President Barack Obama, he told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The Democrat said, however, that Tennessee Democrats need to re-envision what the party is about.

Sen. Alexander crafting legislation for Amazon, online retailers (M. Biz Journal)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is developing legislation to reform online sales tax collections nationwide, walking a careful line in Congress while attempting to address what has been a signature economic development dilemma for Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in recent months. Alexander’s office confirmed Wednesday morning that the Tennessee Republican is working on legislation that would enable states to make online retailers collect sales taxes that consumers are supposed to be paying by law.

Corker holds discussion on energy rates in Tenn. (Associated Press)

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, who sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will be in Chattanooga to talk with energy suppliers and businesses in the Tennessee Valley about electricity rates and their effect on competitiveness. Corker is holding a round table discussion at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga on Thursday.

Fleischmann criticized for win in straw poll (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Carroll)

A few paid staffers for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann helped the incumbent topple his two primary challengers at the Anderson County Republican Party straw poll Tuesday night. Fleischmann spokesman Jordan Powell confirmed that field representative Arch Trimble IV and caseworker Adria Tutton attended the straw poll, proved 3rd Congressional District residence and paid the required $5 fee to vote, along with “a few others who went on their own time.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen joins members opposing oil pipeline (CA/Sullivan)

Obama says he’s still considering building permit The same day President Barack Obama told college students in Colorado that he hasn’t made a decision on permitting a tar sands oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast, lawmakers led by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen asked that he delay it. The Memphis Democrat joined 14 other members of Congress who wrote Obama to raise questions about the administration’s handling of the $7 billion Keystone XL project.

Even with puffy pink blossoms, mimosas still pest on national park (NS/Wilson)

In some neighborhoods, mimosa trees, with their tiny leaves and puffy pink blossoms, are part of the manicured landscape. But on East Tennessee lands maintained by the National Park Service they are called “exotic” and “invasive.”

State Tax Haul Jumps 10.8% (Wall Street Journal)

States beset by budget travails and high national unemployment notched a double-digit rise in tax revenue in the second quarter, thanks in part to recession-era tax increases and the slowly recovering economy. State tax revenue climbed 10.8% during the quarter ended in June from the year-ago period, according to a report released Wednesday by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York.

State Seeks Help to Cut Cost of Chronically Ill (Wall Street Journal)

The governor of Massachusetts wants to hire private insurers or other third parties to manage care for the poor and chronically ill patients who use a disproportionate share of public health-care dollars. The proposal comes as state and federal officials search for a cheaper way to deliver health care to people known as “dual eligibles.”

TVA sees future in small reactors (Tennessean/Paine)

TVA is eager to help lead the way to a new concept in nuclear plants — small reactors that would be factory-built, hauled to a location and buried underground. Such mini-reactors would make it possible to build nuclear power capacity in less costly increments, said Jack Bailey, Tennessee Valley Authority’s vice president of nuclear development.

TVA to build power station at former Midway park site (News-Sentinel/Marcum)

TVA plans to build a switching station and electrical transmission lines on property that had been at the center of controversy when proposed as a business park at the Midway exit off Interstate 40 in East Knox County. The TVA project could make the property less attractive to a buyer, said Lisa Starbuck, who helped lead homeowner opposition to the failed business park plan and is now on a mayor’s task force trying to market the site.

TVA revamps energy website (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

The Tennessee Valley Authority has unveiled a redesigned website for tips and information about how consumers can conserve energy at home, at a business or in an industry. The utility said in a news release that the EnergyRight Solutions website has a simpler layout and more information and is easier to navigate.

Tennova restructuring results in 130 job losses (Knox News-Sentinel/Harrington)

Less than a month after taking over Mercy Health Partners, Tennova Healthcare announced Wednesday a restructuring that will result in about 130 job losses system wide. A couple hundred jobs, however, could be added as a central business office for parent company Health Management Associates is expected to be established within the year on the Tennova Riverside campus, Tennova CEO Mike Garfield said.

Only 1 bidder for nursing home (Times-Gazette)

Bedford County received only one bid for its nursing home and former hospital facility on Union Street — from the company which is currently leasing the nursing home, Johnson City-based Care Centers Management Consultants. CCMC has bid $3,040,520, less $240,520 it claims the county owes it for improvements which had to be made to bring the building in compliance with state law, for a net cash bid of $2.8 million.

Teachers poll set on conference process (Daily News Journal)

Rutherford County Schools officials and teachers representing professional organizations have reached an agreement on how to proceed with the state’s new collaborative conferencing process. Rutherford Education Association President Brenda Ball said Rutherford County is the first district in the state to organize a poll of its teachers on how to go forward with the process.

Hamilton County sets aside funds for schools (Times Free-Press/Haman, Hardy)

Hamilton County officials announced Wednesday that they will make an additional $50 million available for school construction without a tax increase. Now the county and the school system must decide how to spend it.

Public to discuss proposed closings of 3 Mem. elementary schools (CA/Roberts)

Parents will have a chance to speak their minds, but the movement is on to close three city schools. One of them — 1950s-era Graceland Elementary — is in such poor condition that it would cost $10 million to bring it up to speed.

School Board Takes Steps Back, Forward (Memphis Daily News)

The two public school systems in Shelby County used the same team to evaluate charter school applications this week in the first joint proposal the Memphis City and Shelby County School systems have brought to the board for approval. But the small move toward a full consolidation that is to come in August 2013 was countered Tuesday, Oct. 25, by a half-hour debate over setting the agenda for the first regular business meeting since the countywide school board took office Oct. 3 and approving the minutes of meetings of the once separate schools boards before October.

Clarksville-Montgomery schools absorbing federal budget cuts (Leaf Chronicle)

Some significant cuts and new expenditures are on the way for the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System next fiscal year. CMCSS Chief Financial Officer Danny Grant told the Montgomery County budget committee Tuesday afternoon that the district is in good position to absorb a $3 million cut in federal funds, but a $4.5 million increase in new buses for next summer’s budget drew some concern from County Mayor Carolyn Bowers and the four commissioners on the committee. “It’s not today’s problem, but it’s on the horizon,” Grant warned the committee.

Alabama: From cops to courts, confusion over Alabama immigration law (AP)

Alabama’s tough new law on illegal immigration was complicated even before the courts got involved. Now that federal judges have blocked parts of the act while letting others take effect, officials say uncertainty reigns even while suspects are being arrested and jailed.

Maryland: Md. commission proposes 15-cent increase in gas tax (Washington Post)

Maryland would raise its tax on gasoline 15 cents per gallon — to one of the highest rates in the nation — and would boost fees on every bus and rail passenger under a plan endorsed Tuesday by a commission created by the General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). The taxes and fees would have Maryland households paying hundreds of dollars more a year to prop up a transportation trust fund that is failing to keep pace with billions in unfunded projects.

Oregon: Oregon banks on community health care (Stateline)

Long before the national health law was enacted last year, a handful of states started work on their own health care overhauls. Massachusetts became the first state to require health coverage for all; it was the model for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

OPINION

Editorial: Haslam spends quality time in Jackson school (Jackson Sun)

We would like to thank Gov. Bill Haslam for making Jackson a stop on his tour of West Tennessee this week. We especially thank him for visiting South Side High School. We’re glad the governor made time on his visit to have some frank conversation with school employees.

Editorial: Public money, public schools (Commercial Appeal)

Across Tennessee, the effort to shift public funds to private schools is being rightfully opposed. It seems an odd time to push legislation authorizing private school vouchers. Accountability and transparency are among the top concerns these days regarding public education.

Editorial: Prescription drug abuse needs more attention (Daily News Journal)

Tennessee has a serious prescription drug problem that must be aggressively addressed by law enforcement, the health-care community, lawmakers and social services organizations. A raid last week by local, state and federal authorities on a South Church Street clinic highlights the growing scourge of prescription drugs — particularly painkillers — flowing in and out of this state illegally on a yearly basis.

Editorial: Electronic voting system would make commission more efficient (NS)

Knox County Commission is considering the purchase of an electronic voting system to cut down on instances of what could be termed “herd voting.” When the panel goes by a roll call vote, commissioners at the bottom of the list can watch, count and then cast their votes based on how their colleagues are voting.

Free-Press Editorial: Local Air National Guard troops return (Times Free-Press)

We certainly appreciate the vital, patriotic service of all our men and women in uniform — especially of those who serve overseas, far from the comforts of hearth, home and family. And so it is with a happy “Welcome home!” that we salute airmen of our Tennessee Air National Guard’s 241st Engineering Installation Squadron as they have come back from their deployment in areas of the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

Editorial: The Wrong Fix for No Child Left Behind (New York Times)

The revised No Child Left Behind Act that passed out of the Senate education committee last week goes too far in relaxing state accountability and federal oversight of student achievement. The business community, civil rights groups and advocates of disabled children are rightly worried that the rewrite of the law would particularly hurt underprivileged children.

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