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November 17 TN News Digest

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

Sprint Call Center Planned for Sullivan Co. (TN Report)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with company officials announced today that Sprint (NYSE: S) will relocate its call center operations to Sullivan County from a current Bristol, Va. facility. The move will bring more than 600 new jobs to Tennessee and represents a multimillion dollar investment in the state.

Sprint to build call center in Sullivan County (Business Clarksville)

Sprint (NYSE: S) will relocate its call center operations to Sullivan County from a current Bristol, Va. facility. The move will bring more than 600 new jobs to Tennessee and represents a multimillion dollar investment in the state.

Call Center Relocation Affecting Economy, Jobs (WCYB-TV)

There has been a battle in Bristol the past few months to keep the Sprint call center from moving to Tennessee from Virginia. On Tuesday, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty announced that Sprint would relocate and build to Sullivan County.

Tennessee considers changes to teacher evaluations (Tennessean/Hubbard)

Changes could come to Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system over the summer, Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman told the state legislature’s Joint Operations Committee on Wednesday. Stringent new teacher evaluations tied to student test scores kicked in this school year.

Haslams Offer Holiday Tours of Governor’s Residence (TN Report)

As we mentioned in our last email, we’re beginning a new tradition this holiday season at the Tennessee Residence. “Tennessee’s Home for the Holidays” is a two-week long series of open house days where everyone is invited to share in the experience of holidays at the Residence. Tennessee’s home will be beautifully decorated inside and out with several Christmas trees throughout the house and Conservation Hall.

Corrections Department Asks for Budget Increase (TN Report)

Officials with the Tennessee Department of Correction want the state to increase funding for prisons by $80 million, even as the governor is asking all state agencies to prepare 5 percent cuts. Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday he doesn’t expect to have to make those kinds of cuts in each department’s budget, but it’s too soon to tell.

Man charged with “doctor shopping” for third time (WRCB-TV Chattanooga)

A McMinn County man is charged for a third time with TennCare “doctor shopping”. Charles E. Self, 43, has been arrested and charged in a Bradley County indictment with three counts of fraudulently obtaining controlled substances using TennCare. Charges say he went to multiple physicians within a 30-day period, receiving the same or similar controlled substances.

Rutherford County man charged with TennCare fraud (Daily News Journal)

A Rutherford County man is charged with TennCare fraud for using the state’s public healthcare insurance program to obtain prescription drugs, which he later sold. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with assistance from Smyrna police, today announced the arrest of Joshua S. Mitchell, 23, of Smyrna.

State aeronautics division has new director (Associated Press)

The aeronautics division of the Tennessee Department of Transportation has a new director. William B. Orellana will oversee the licensing of Tennessee’s general aviation airports and grants for them. He is a former U.S. Air Force colonel with 26 years of service, including the position of base commander at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

U of M Law Adds Flexibility Into Curriculum (Memphis Daily News)

The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law has approved changes to the school’s curriculum that go into effect next year and reflect the changing nature of the legal profession. Starting with the class that enters in the fall of 2012, students will have more flexibility in classes they take earlier in their education.

No insurance hinders man to join transplant list (Jackson Sun)

Chris Laslie passed out in his living room from a gruesome headache a little more than a year ago. His wife, Debra Laslie, said doctors later told them Chris had suffered an aneurysm related to early sclerosis of his liver and that he would need a liver transplant.

Weight limits in place on bridge (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Walton)

Starting today, no vehicles heavier than 10 tons are allowed on the Wilcox Boulevard bridge over the DeButts Rail Yard off Amnicola Highway. Chattanooga officials announced last week they would impose weight limits after a state inspection turned up deficiencies on the 54-year-old span that crosses the Norfolk Southern rail yard.

Kingsport nurse’s license on probation following conviction for assault (T-N)

A Kingsport registered nurse whose license was placed on probation due to an assault conviction is one of three area nurses named in the Tennessee Department of Health’s latest disciplinary action report. The report, issued Tuesday afternoon, states the Board of Nursing placed the license of Bradley R. Blackburn, R.N., on probation for a period of one year and ordered him to pay a $1,000 fine plus costs.

Beavers Considers ‘Starting From Scratch’ on Court of Judiciary (TN Report)

In one of her strongest statements to date, Sen. Mae Beavers raised the specter Tuesday of doing away with the board that polices judges. The Court of the Judiciary has been the subject of intense legislative attention this fall as Beavers has sought to revamp the make-up and operations of the body.

Commission takes no action, preserving Occupy protest (TFP/Haman)

Though Occupy encampments have been swept away across the nation, Occupy Chattanooga protesters are staying in place on the courthouse lawn for the moment. Hamilton County commissioners, who said Tuesday afternoon they were poised to take action, didn’t bring up the matter at Wednesday’s commission meeting.

Hamilton County sheriff seeks videoconferencing for inmates (TFP/Haman)

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond is pushing to bring videoconferencing to the county jail. On Wednesday, he met with a Hamilton County Commission committee to discuss the possible benefits of providing an Internet-based way for inmates to communicate with visitors, attorneys and courts from their cell blocks.

Memphis sues county over disputed MLGW payments (C. Appeal/Connolly)

The city of Memphis has filed suit against Shelby County government in a financial dispute involving millions of dollars, a step that ends months of informal negotiations and raises the stakes for taxpayers. Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division doesn’t pay property taxes, but it makes “payments in lieu of taxes” to the city on its gas and electrical equipment.

Alexander’s Online Sales Tax Proposal Gets Support Back Home (WPLN-Radio)

Wednesday small business owners from Tennessee are in Washington helping sell a proposal that would get online retailers collecting sales tax. The legislation gives states a way to force online retailers like Amazon to collect sales tax on purchases.

TN businesses rally for Sen. Alexander’s online tax bill (Nashville Biz Journal)

Tennessee companies sounded the call for U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s online sales tax legislation today, pushing Washington to tackle what has been a hot debate within the business community. Alexander, a Republican, held a news conference this afternoon in Washington, D.C., in support of legislation he’s pushing that would allow states to require online retailers to collect sales taxes.

Alexander confident Congress will pass online sales tax bill (News-Sentinel/Collins)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said Wednesday he is confident Congress will pass legislation giving states the right to collect sales and use taxes on online purchases from out-of-state retailers. “I believe it is going to happen,” the Maryville Republican said.

Senators want state taxes levied online (Times-Gazette)

U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced last week that a bipartisan group of 10 senators, including Alexander’s Tennessee colleague Bob Corker, are introducing legislation that would, if it passes, give states the option to collect sales taxes on all online purchases. Currently, states can only force online merchants to collect sales tax if the merchant has a physical presence in that state, such as a retail store or distribution center.

TN Lawmakers Encourage Super Committee, Make Contingency Plans (WPLN)

If the so-called congressional “super committee” fails to cut more than a trillion dollars from the deficit, Tennessee risks a downgrade of its bond rating. The panel remains gridlocked, but some members of the state’s congressional delegation are trying to pressure the group to reach a deal.

Tennessee lawmakers focal point of Lacey Act fight (Memphis Business Journal)

Proponents of the 100-year-old Lacey Act are pushing back against Tennessee lawmakers who introduced this month a bill aimed at protecting individual musicians and guitar merchants in the wake of multiple raids at Nashville-based Gibson Guitar Corp. facilities. On a conference call Wednesday, environmentalists and representatives from the steel and forest industries claimed the proposed bill would make sweeping changes to the Lacey Act, which was amended in 2008 to include plants among the law’s protected species.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper wrongly listed among wealthiest Americans (Tennessean)

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper is not among the top 1 percent of wealthiest Americans, as had been reported in an analysis by USA TODAY that was published in The Tennessean on Wednesday. The information about Cooper was based on faulty data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, which estimated members’ worth within a range reported on financial disclosure forms by members of Congress.

FEMA unlocks millions for Nashville flood home buyouts (Tennessean/Cass)

Lars Frederiksen and his family can’t live in their old house anymore. The flood of 2010 ruined it more than 18 months ago. But they’ve continued to pay the mortgage, the insurance and the property taxes.

FEMA Funds On the Way to Restart Flood Buyouts (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Nashville’s flood buyout program is back on track, now that federal funding has been restored. After the devastating floods in May of last year, the city made deals to purchase just over 200 homes that stood in the floodways.

FEMA funds flow again; flood home buyout program continues (City Paper)

Some $30.4 million in funding is back on the table, allowing Metro to continue with a home buyout program resulting from last year’s flood. According to Mayor Karl Dean’s office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency funds that had been frozen, putting the buyout program on hold, are now available again.

Nashville lauded for efforts to ease flooding (Tennessean/Paine)

Nashville is one of 14 cities featured in a report released Wednesday for its efforts to reduce flooding and make waterways cleaner by the nontraditional method of capturing rain where it falls. It’s mostly about greenery: green roofs, rain gardens, parklands and trees.

Kids’ Heart Health Is Faulted (Wall Street Journal)

Analysis of Federal Data Finds Shortcomings in Diet, Exercise, Cholesterol Levels A new analysis of federal data provides a dismal picture of children’s cardiovascular health that suggests the current generation of teenagers could be at risk of increased heart disease. The study, which examined children between 12 and 19 years old in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that the adolescents performed poorly overall on a set of seven criteria set by the American Heart Association for ideal cardiovascular health.

Timing is right for technology transfers, DOE official says (News-Sentinel/Willett)

The timing is right to increase technology transfer from government labs to the private sector. That was the assessment Wednesday of Karina Edmonds, technology transfer coordinator for the Department of Energy, who delivered the keynote address at the Entrepreneurial Imperative Conference being held at the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown Knoxville.

Data center provider opens Nashville office (Nashville Post)

An Ohio-based data center company is pushing into the Middle Tennessee market with an office in Cool Springs and the hiring of a veteran local business development executive. AdvizeX Technologies has hired Eddy Richardson to be its regional sales manager. Richardson most recently was director of business development at Kraft Enterprise Systems, the IT unit of KraftCPAs that was founded as Axis Accounting Systems.

Chattanooga-built Passat named Motor Trend Car of the Year (TFP/Pare)

A mixture of German engineering and Tennessee craftsmanship is why Volkswagen’s made-in-Chattanooga Passat drew Car of the Year honors from Motor Trend magazine, the assembly plant’s chief said Wednesday. “This is a really good sign,” said Frank Fischer, CEO of VW’s Chattanooga operations.

Leaders to meet on Whirlpool road project (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Leach)

Bradley County commissioners have asked to meet with Cleveland officials before beginning road improvements associated with the Whirlpool factory relocation. The projects, which include upgrades to Benton Pike, Durkee Road and Michigan Avenue, are part of a venture between Bradley County and Cleveland to retain Whirlpool.

Union sues to get addresses of Music City Center workers (Tennessean/Gee)

A local union that wants to know whether Music City Center has lived up to its billing as a local job-creator has sued Metro for access to personal information about workers on the 16-acre site downtown. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local No. 369, which covers Middle and West Tennessee, submitted requests to Nashville’s Convention Center Authority in December and January for the certified payroll records of contractors on the largest municipal project in Nashville history.

Roane County lawsuit alleges educators knew of bullying, did nothing (NS/Fowler)

From the time he entered kindergarten in 2005 to late 2010, a Roane County student was subjected to “severe, pervasive and prolonged bullying,” a $5 million federal Civil Rights lawsuit alleges. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, contends the child’s mother, Melissa L. Hunka, repeatedly met with educators, but they did nothing to stop the bullying.

MTSU prof partners with Oakland on bullying education (Daily News Journal)

An MTSU professor has created a partnership with Oakland High in an effort to teach teens about the impact bullying has on society. Jackie Gilbert, a professor in MTSU’s College of Business, teaches Principals of Management, a course required for all business majors.

Alabama: In Alabama, Calls for Revamping Immigration Law (New York Times)

An increasing number of state lawmakers say they are willing to consider critical changes to Alabama’s sweeping anti-immigration law, part of which appears to make proof of citizenship or legal residency a requirement even for mundane activities like garbage pickup, dog licenses and flu shots at county health departments. As they learn more about the breadth of the law, which was already described as the most far-reaching of the state-level immigration laws when it went into effect on Sept. 29, some political leaders have gone beyond acknowledging a general need for “tweaks” to openly discussing specific changes, which in some cases are as substantial as getting rid of certain provisions in their entirety.

California: Sharp Decline in Revenue Is Forecast for California (New York Times)

California’s budget problems show no signs of abating. A report released by state budget analysts on Wednesday forecasts a sharp decline in revenue for this fiscal year, which could set off more than $2 billion in new cuts in state spending in January, including a seven-day reduction in the school year for public school students. The report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office projected that the state would fall $3.7 billion short of the $88.5 billion in revenues and transfers that was anticipated in the 2011-12 state budget approved in June.

Indiana: Indiana places a big bet on consumer-driven health insurance (Stateline)

One thing Mitch Daniels believes with absolute conviction is that consumers need to pay more of the cost of their health care. He has written it in a flurry of op-ed articles in newspapers and journals all over the country.

Massachusetts: Deval Patrick: Let the gaming begin! (Boston Globe)

Roulette wheels could be turning and gaming profits rolling in as early as 2013 in a swank resort gambling palace on the site of Suffolk Downs — primed for fast-track construction — as Gov. Deval Patrick signaled yesterday he’s ready to sign off on three resort casinos and a slot parlor in the Bay State. “The full-time casino jobs and tax revenue will come sooner at Suffolk Downs than anywhere else,” said Michael Monahan of IBEW, who believes the East Boston track could be up and running a full year before other contenders are ready because it’s already a gaming facility with a functioning structure.

Ohio: Remapping Fight Costs Ohio Clout in Primary (Wall Street Journal)

Democrats are getting closer to forcing a referendum on the state’s Republican-passed congressional map, a rare strategy in redistricting fights that threatens to complicate the 2012 election in this pivotal state. The referendum campaign has already compelled Ohio, a swing state in the presidential election and an important congressional battleground, to push back its presidential and U.S. House primary from Super Tuesday on March 6 to June 12—49th of the 50 states—a late juncture by which the GOP nominee could already be picked.

Oregon: Oregon Tests iPads as Aid to Disabled Voters (New York Times)

Could the iPad someday supplant the voting machine? Oregon last week became the first state in the country to use iPads to allow people with disabilities to vote, and it intends to use them again for another election in January.

Wisconsin recall: How powerful super PACs could influence the battle (CSM)

If hundreds of thousands of protesters camping for weeks on the front lawn of the statehouse in Madison early this year made you think the battle between union organizers and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) had reached an all-time high, think again. “That was just the warm-up act, this is the real deal,” says Paul Maslin, a campaign strategist and pollster based in Madison.

OPINION

Free-Press Editorial: Education waivers skirt rule of law (Times Free-Press)

We can readily see why Tennessee and Georgia are seeking waivers from some of the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind education law. The law has two big factors working against it: * First, there is little evidence after decades of heavy federal spending and “guidance” on public education that all that money is boosting achievement among our young people.

Editorial: Spending cuts mainly hit poor (Paris Post-Intelligencer)

Cut federal spending. Cut federal spending. That mantra of the political right sounds so logical, so obvious, that it is spoken with almost religious fervor. What most of its adherents see is slashing of frivolous and luxurious projects that have plunged Uncle Sam into abysmal debt.

Guest columnist: Get moving, quit smoking to put brakes on heart disease (Tenn.)

The recent article “Tennesseans suffer fewer heart ills” noted the decrease in heart disease mortality over the past four years. While this is good news, it also serves as a reminder still that we have work to do on major health issues in our state.

Guest columnist: Harwell, Haslam should stand up for Muslim vets (Tennessean)

Veterans Day is a time to honor our troops, not slander them. Republican State Rep. Rick Womick seems to have it backward. Friday, while many of us were celebrating our veterans, Womick, R-Rockvale, had other plans. He spent the day speaking at a conference for anti-Muslim activists, telling the crowd that “we cannot have Muslims in our military because we cannot trust them.”

Jack Neely: How Lakeshore Helped Create Bearden (Metro Pulse)

Now preparing to close, the mental institution was once an object of civic pride Three Knoxville institutions are celebrating their 125th birthdays this year: the public library, the News Sentinel, and Lakeshore Mental Health Institute. Lakeshore will likely close after its 126th.

Ricki Hall: Why Rural Counties Should Tax the 1% (Metro Pulse)

The Appalachian Public Interest Environmental Law conference, held last month at the UT law school, was a wonderful blend of attorneys and activists. In only its second year, the conference drew in panelists and participants from several surrounding states for talks on coal mining, forest management, public health, clean water laws and more.

Times Editorial: Food giants + GOP = obese kids (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

If Republicans don’t want reforms to make health care more affordable, they should at least be willing to support new dietary rules in school lunch programs to promote healthier children. That would help stem the surging epidemics of childhood obesity and related diabetes, which now afflict an astonishing one-third of American children.

 

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