November 12 TN News Digest

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

Heart of Memphis (Memphis Daily News)

The day before Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was the keynote speaker this summer at the Downtown Memphis Commission’s 2011 Annual Luncheon, he went for a jog in Nashville wearing his “Believe Memphis” Grizzlies T-shirt. Twenty-four hours later, he stood before a podium in Memphis to address an audience of the city’s movers and shakers at The Peabody hotel about Downtown Memphis – a topic that even the governor acknowledged seemed odd for the state’s chief executive.

Over 75 statewide events showcase Global Entrepreneurship Week (Biz Clarksville)

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development has confirmed more than 75 events across the state during the fourth annual Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) Nov. 14-20. This strong showing continues Tennessee’s tradition of offering a variety of events and educational opportunities encouraging entrepreneurship and supporting start-up companies.

Haslam to request Occupy Nashville charges be dropped (City Paper)

Gov. Bill Haslam will ask the district attorney on Monday to dismiss charges against anyone arrested in relation to the Occupy Nashville protesters, according to Haslam’s office. In all, 55 arrests were made over the course of two nights, each accompanied by a criminal trespassing citation.

Haslam wants DA to drop Occupy Nashville charges (Tennessean/Brooks, Cass)

Gov. Bill Haslam wants to drop charges against the 49 people arrested during his administration’s short-lived attempt to evict Occupy Nashville protesters from War Memorial Plaza. Haslam spokesman David Smith announced Thursday that the governor will be asking the Metro district attorney to drop misdemeanor criminal trespassing charges, even as the group reoccupies the plaza in force.

Emotions Mixed as State Plans to Drop Charges Against Occupiers (WPLN-Radio)

The state now wants the trespassing charges against anti-Wall Street protesters dropped. A spokesman for Governor Bill Haslam has announced he will ask the District Attorney to dismiss the misdemeanor citations.

Wartrace awarded grant for water line (Times-Gazette)

Wartrace has been awarded a $169,750 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) that is to be used for a water line extension. The grant was announced this week by Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty to assist in infrastructure improvements in the small community.

Mt. Pleasant gets $500k sewer grant (Columbia Daily Herald)

Mt. Pleasant’s request for $10 million in government funding for wastewater management has been partially met through the state’s approval of a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to assist in infrastructure improvments. Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty approved the grant, which State Rep. Sheila Butt said will be used to rehabilitate the sewer system in Mt. Pleasant.

Union City, South Fulton awarded grants for infrastructure improvements (WCN)

South Fulton and Union City have both been awarded grants to assist in infrastructure improvements. The grants were an-nounced Thursday afternoon by Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Com-munity Development Com-missioner Bill Hagerty.

Giles To Get Share Of CDBG (WKSR-Radio Pulaski)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty recently approved more than $23 million in Community Development Block Grants to assist with infrastructure improvements in Tennessee. Giles County will receive $500,000 for water systems.

Huffman Fields Education Queries During ‘Webinar’ (TN Report)

Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman said Wednesday achievement gaps involving minority students are “a huge priority” for the state as it prepares to submit its formal application for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law. He also said he thinks the odds of Congress passing effective legislation to address concerns about the law are slim, leaving states to act on their own.

UTC life sciences laboratory project now number 4 on priority list (TFP/Trevizo)

Building a life sciences laboratory facility at UTC finally has made it to the top tier of projects prioritized by the UT system for funding in the next fiscal year. The $59.5 million project has been in the works for about six years, said University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor Roger Brown.

Tennessee board recommends college tuition hikes of 5 to 8 percent (CA/Locker)

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission voted Thursday to request a $28 million increase in state appropriations next year for public higher education, coupled with student tuition increases ranging from 5 to 8 percent at the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The proposal also calls for tuition hikes ranging from 3 to 6 percent at the state’s other public universities and community colleges, and from 5 to 10 percent at the Tennessee Technology Centers, where students can obtain vocational training.

TN college students could soon see tuition hikes again (WSMV-TV Nashville)

Less than a year after double digit tuition hikes at Tennessee’s state colleges and universities, more could be on the way. Students could be asked to fork over even more money for classes, and once again it could be a steep increase.

Tenn. to close Knoxville mental health facility (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health announced Friday it plans to close a Knoxville mental health facility next year and shift care to three private psychiatric providers in East Tennessee. Department Commissioner Doug Varney said in a news release that Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in Knoxville will close by June 30 and patients will be referred to other state hospitals or community providers.

State bars new admissions to rehab center in Burns (Associated Press)

State mental health officials have suspended all new admissions to a drug addiction treatment center in Dickson County after an investigation raised questions about medical care there. The decision by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health freezes patient admissions for at least 120 days at New Life Lodge, which is the largest residential drug treatment facility in the state.

Bicyclists fear repaved downtown road still unsafe (WKRN-TV Nashville)

The Tennessee Department of Transportation re-paved James Robertson Parkway and the Victory Memorial Bridge four months ago, but still, bright orange traffic cones line the bike lanes. It’s obviously not safe and not yet finished.

Where do Americans want to live? Tennessee No. 12, poll says (M. Biz Journal)

Tennessee barely missed the top 10 in a new poll from Harris Interactive asking Americans where they would most like to live. The top three were arguably predictable — the sunny states of Hawaii (No. 1), California (2) and Florida (3). At No. 12, Tennessee fared well compared to other Southern states, finishing behind only Virginia at No. 10 (and Florida, if you insist on calling it a Southern state).

Harwell Cautious on Vouchers, Ramsey Assertive (TN Report)

While Gov. Bill Haslam calls school vouchers potentially one of the most contentious legislative issues on the horizon, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell said Thursday she doesn’t see passage of a voucher bill without a “great deal of discussion.” Harwell said she would want a plan designed specifically for Tennessee, not just taking what other states have done.

Speakers applaud TN law at anti-Sharia meeting (Associated Press/Loller)

Speakers at a conference of conservative activists that focused on the threat of Islamic extremism in America on Friday praised Tennessee for being at the forefront of legislative efforts to fight it. Christopher Holton of the Center for Security Policy said Tennessee was the first state in the nation to pass “American laws for American courts” legislation. This bars states from enforcing foreign laws, in settings such as family court, if their imposition would violate a person’s constitutional rights.

Dean Says English Only Defeat Still Paying Off (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

This week, Nashville was chosen to host soccer matches for the men’s Olympic qualifying tournament. Mayor Karl Dean says the city wouldn’t even be considered for such international events if voters had passed the English-only ballot initiative in 2009.

Adoptions more difficult after TN woman sent boy back to Russia (TN/Brooks)

International adoption has never been easy. It takes time, money, and commitment to bring a child from another land into a new family. Then last year a woman from Tennessee put her adopted 7-year-old son on a one-way flight back to Russia, and a difficult process got a whole lot harder for a lot more Americans.

Knox County could implement zoning restrictions to control pain clinics (NS/Donila)

Knox County officials are looking into a proposal that would use new zoning restrictions to regulate unscrupulous pain clinics that knowingly overprescribe highly addictive pills. The plan, sought by the Knox County Commission earlier this year, was crafted in mid-October by the Metropolitan Planning Commission, which based its recommendations on a recently approved state model.

Corker, Alexander Support President’s Proposal to Spur Vet Hiring (WPLN-Radio)

Tennessee’s senators – both Republicans – helped pass a portion of President Obama’s jobs bill that provides tax credits to business for hiring veterans. The vote was more about rewarding military service than spurring economic growth in Middle Tennessee.

Corker: Hard decisions ahead (Jackson Sun)

Sen. Bob Corker said Friday the United States is facing its greatest financial challenge since The Great Depression, and Congress must make unpopular decisions if the country is going to recover. Those decisions will likely include changes in the nation’s Medicare system, said Corker, R-Tenn.

Sen. Corker pushes to unwind Fannie, Freddie (Nashville Biz Journal)

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker is pushing legislation to unwind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac , the mortgage financing groups that have been a bedrock of the housing market for decades. In remarks on the Senate floor late Wednesday, the Tennessee Republican introduced the Residential Mortgage Market Privatization and Standardization Act.

Alexander backs EPA smog regulation (Tennessean/Bewley)

GOP senator says Republicans’ bill is bad for Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander broke with his party’s leaders Thursday in voting to keep a federal rule aimed at curbing air pollution in certain states. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is designed to limit smog and soot pollution from power plants and industrial sources in 27 states, including Tennessee and its neighbors.

Clean air vote splits senators Alexander, Corker (Times Free-Press/Carroll)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander from Tennessee breathed new life into clean air policy Thursday, joining four Republicans in defeating a colleague’s attempt to weaken EPA pollution rules. Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, wanted to overturn a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting the amount of power-plant fumes that can blow from a state into bordering states.

Blackburn Confident Super Committee Will Find Enough to Trim (WPLN-Radio)

Brentwood Republican Marsha Blackburn says she’s “fairly confident” the so-called “Super Committee” will agree on $1.2 trillion in reductions to the federal deficit. This comes as others in Tennessee’s delegation have their doubts.

Rural counties lean more on Social Security as income (Times Free-Press/Benton)

Cumberland County, Tenn., leads the state and ranks 18th among 3,105 counties in the nation when it comes to the percentage of residents’ total income that comes from Social Security. A new study shows that about 15.9 percent of Cumberland residents’ income came from Social Security payments.

AirTran Airways leaving Knoxville (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Marcum)

Move hurts chance to get Southwest Low-fare carrier AirTran Airways announced Friday it will cease operations at five airports, including Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport, citing a “challenging economic environment” and sustained high fuel prices. Service at McGhee Tyson and the other cities will end June 3, 2012.

Goodyear Plant in Union City Sold to Tire Maker (Associated Press)

The former Goodyear tire plant in Union City has been sold to a maker of off-road equipment tires, officials said Friday. The sale to Titan Tire Corporation is effective immediately, but the purchase price is not being disclosed, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. spokeswoman Amy Brei in Akron, Ohio, told The Associated Press on Friday morning.

Titan Tire buys the former Goodyear plant in Union City, Tennessee (CA/Risher)

An Illinois-based maker of tires for agriculture and industry has bought Goodyear’s Union City plant four months after its closing idled 1,800 workers. Goodyear and Titan Tire, subsidiary of Titan International, on Friday confirmed the sale, and Titan said it would provide more detail next week.

County lands ‘Titan’ of an industry (Weakley County News)

Obion County is back in the tire business. A deal has been struck to sell the local Goodyear tire plant to Titan Tire Corporation, a subsidiary of Titan International Inc., one of the country’s largest manufacturers of off-road tires.

Commission Tackles Redistricting Plan (Memphis Daily News)

Shelby County Commissioners should take the first of three votes Monday, Nov. 14, on a new redistricting plan that would change the areas represented by those on the 13-member body but not the size of the commission. The commission meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.

Arlington’s Avery Hopes to Keep City and County Schools Together (M. Flyer)

How is the planning going on the school-merger Planning Commission? Very well, according to one key member.

OPINION

Editorial: Tennessee’s Push to Transform Schools (New York Times)

Tennessee has a long way to go in improving its schools, but it has made significant headway in turning itself into a laboratory for education reform. It was one of the first states to test a rigorous teacher evaluation system, which was put in place this school year.

Greg Johnson: Online sales tax bill would level playing field (News-Sentinel)

Almost exactly 10 years ago, William F. Buckley Jr., the father of modern conservatism, opined in the National Review about the vexing problem of e-commerce and the collection — or lack thereof — of sales taxes by state governments. Buckley stood firmly athwart principled, conservative convictions against any tax on Internet usage.

Editorial: Teachers get the state’s ear (Commercial Appeal)

Public education reform won’t go far if those on the front line aren’t considered part of the solution. The state Board of Education took a small step in the right direction last week when it adjusted the time principals must spend evaluating teachers.

Guest columnist: Teacher Effectiveness Initiative is right path (Commercial Appeal)

When carefully implemented, the TEI will help ensure that all of our students are blessed with teachers who are as effective as today’s best ones. At the recent launch of his “Education Champions” campaign that spotlights educational organizations making a difference in Memphis, Elliot Perry reminded us: “It’s not about one system or one solution.

Guest columnist: Nonprofits have big role in students’ improvement (Tennessean)

Our public schools and teachers should not shoulder all the blame for the dismal state of public education in Tennessee and cannot be expected to turn the tide on their own. While molding Tennessee’s young minds is our schools’ primary focus, those seeking to lay the blame at the schoolhouse steps should take a look in the mirror.

Guest columnist: Protest, passion and polemics in Nash. (Columbia Daily Herald)

When I first heard the news of the Occupy Wall Street Protest in New York, I frankly didn’t know quite what to make of it. My first thought was that it was a kind of Bonnaroo-like happening that would, so long as the weather cooperated, include youthful partying, rock music, some dope smoking and inane political commentary on the periphery. However, when ex-addict Rush Limbaugh referred to the occupiers as human garbage, I suspected that the movement had to have some redeeming qualities.

Guest columnist: ‘9%’ vets must fight for fair compensation (Tennessean)

There is growing anger in this country as the “99 percent” continue to point out the widening gap between rich and poor. The “occupy” movement has spread from Wall Street to Nashville and beyond. Lost among the discussion of high unemployment rates, bank bailouts and excessive corporate greed is the fact that there is a group much smaller than the 99 percent that bears the combined burden of economic inequality and “service inequality.”

Editorial: Affirmation of Health Care Reform (New York Times)

A federal appeals court in the District of Columbia endorsed the constitutionality of health care reform this week in an opinion as notable for its authorship as for its legal reasoning. The majority opinion in the 2-to-1 decision was written by Judge Laurence Silberman, a stalwart of conservative jurisprudence whose views are said to be enormously influential in conservative legal circles.