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January 3 TN News Digest

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

Turf battle between legislature, judiciary lies on horizon in Tenn. (Tennessean/Gee)

Tennessee’s Supreme Court justices soon must wrestle with the thorny issue of whether, and to what extent, the state’s legislature can overrule its high court. The question comes as judges and judicial systems across the country are taking shots from lawmakers and politicians for being unaccountable and out of touch with mainstream America, and after a year that saw the Tennessee General Assembly pass two laws explicitly aimed at overturning state Supreme Court decisions that lawmakers didn’t like.

Hamilton Co. Sheriff’s Office receives $49,000 grant to stop impaired drivers (TFP)

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has received a $49,000 grant from the Governor’s Highway Safety Office to remove impaired and drunken drivers from the roads, according to a news release. The sheriff’s office will place more vehicles and deputies on patrol during the hours when most impaired or drunken drivers are on the roads.

Tennessee school health program could be in jeopardy (Times Free-Press/Hardy)

A statewide school health program could be on the chopping block as the Tennessee General Assembly and governor get ready to draft the coming year’s budget. Russell Cliche, of Hamilton County’s Coordinated School Health division, worries that the state-mandated program could vanish from the budget because it’s not scheduled for automatic renewal of funding.

Pickett County judge reprimanded for method of punishment (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Court of the Judiciary has publicly reprimanded a Middle Tennessee judge for handcuffing a father to a son as punishment. The disciplinary panel last week announced the reprimand of Ronnie Zachary.

Voter ID law may face court fight (Tennessean/Sisk)

Civil rights attorneys in Nashville and Washington, D.C., appear to be laying the groundwork for legal challenges to Tennessee’s new voter identification law. A top official says the U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing recent laws that require voters to show photo identification at the polls, and Nashville attorneys are putting together a lawsuit that could challenge the law unless legislators reconsider when they convene Jan. 10.

Tennessee school health program could be in jeopardy (Times Free-Press/Hardy)

A statewide school health program could be on the chopping block as the Tennessee General Assembly and governor get ready to draft the coming year’s budget. Russell Cliche, of Hamilton County’s Coordinated School Health division, worries that the state-mandated program could vanish from the budget because it’s not scheduled for automatic renewal of funding. “I’m very concerned,” he said.

County Commission misses deadline to approve redistricting map (CA/Connolly)

Shelby County commissioners missed the Dec. 31 deadline to approve a new district map for use in the 2014 elections. Legal action still is possible, and commissioners are likely to continue debating the matter at a committee meeting Wednesday. State law says the commission had until the end of 2011 to use new census data to adjust the district lines.

Illegal? A Bribe? Or Just Another Failed Redistricting Plan? (Memphis Flyer)

Over the holidays, yet another attempt to break the Shelby County Commission’s stalemate on redistricting has been floated, and it, too, has floundered. But, unlike the proffered plans which preceded it, this one — called the “Distributive Representation Plan” by its author, interim District 1 Commissioner Brent Taylor, a Republican — has resulted in charges that it is “illegal” and constitutes a “bribe.”

Prosecutor takes closer look at Davidson County clerk’s office (TN/Haas)

Auditors have begun a second round of inquiries into Davidson County Clerk John Arriola’s office. Davidson County District Attorney General Torry Johnson opened an investigation in July after questions arose about money Arriola accepted to perform weddings and a potential “ghost employee” who was paid for several years without having to fill out a time card or produce any actual work product.

At the Time Warp Tea Room, county commissioners discuss it all (NS/Donila)

Dan Moriarty won’t discuss politics. That’s for his customers.

Murfreesboro Occupiers break camp at Civic Plaza (Daily News Journal)

After camping out for about a month on Civic Plaza, Occupy Murfreesboro participants decided to move their protest tents. “We decided to redeploy our assets,” Scott Martindale said while waiting on group’s 7 o’clock general assembly to get started on a cold Monday night at Civic Plaza.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander ready to express ideas (Times Free-Press/Carroll)

Distinction be damned. That’s U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s attitude toward “third-ranking Senate Republican” and “Republican conference chairman,” two titles he’s relinquishing this month in a move designed to free him of GOP orthodoxy. Since 2007, Alexander, 71, has served as one of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s top lieutenants, mostly tending to political and media strategy.

The congressman collector (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Vines)

Duncan’s trove includes White House souvenirs, flea market flatirons John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. looks to the past as he works on the country’s future whether he’s at home in Farragut or in his Knoxville or Washington, D.C., congressional offices. The past is reflected in political memorabilia collected during a lifetime, including 23½ years in the U.S. House, and items that belonged to his dad, John Duncan Sr., the late Knoxville mayor and congressman.

Health law explained: The states gain new flexibility in setting policies (Stateline)

A linchpin of the 2010 federal health law is the requirement that nearly everyone sign up for a health insurance plan – whether it’s Medicaid, other federally subsidized insurance, or private coverage. To make that easier to do, the law calls on states to set up health insurance exchanges where small businesses and individuals can choose the policies that best fit their needs at a price they can afford.

No bonuses for Erlanger Health System executives for 2011 (TFP/Martin)

Despite making a profit of $5.4 million in the last fiscal year, Erlanger Health System executives will not receive bonuses because more stringent criteria were implemented. Based on the criteria for fiscal year 2011, which ended June 30, system executives would not have received bonuses in 2010 and 2009, two years when executives received nearly $4 million in combined bonuses.

First ‘listening tour’ for consolidated school system Jan. 10 (Memphis Biz Journal)

The Transition Planning Commission for the consolidated Shelby County school system is holding the first of several “listening tours” in Collierville next month. The event will be Jan. 10 at Collierville United Methodist Church, 454 West Poplar, from 7-9 p.m.

Atlanta educator inspires parents, community to help improve schools (J. Sun)

Several who attended a parent, teacher and community workshop on Monday left feeling motivated and ready to improve things in the Jackson-Madison County School System. Kim Bearden, of the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, was a guest speaker Monday afternoon at Madison Academic Magnet High School Auditorium.

Maryland: Maryland School Segregation Case Goes to Trial (Wall Street Journal)

More than a half-century after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public education, a court will decide if Maryland is doing enough to support the state’s historically black public colleges and universities. A lawsuit brought by a group largely made up of students and alumni from these schools, and headed to trial Tuesday in a Baltimore federal court, accuses the state of repeatedly failing to fulfill promises to desegregate the schools.

Ohio: Ohio Shuts Wells Following Quakes (Wall Street Journal)

Ohio became the latest state to take action on the possible link between seismic activity and wells used to dispose of waste water from oil and gas production when state officials ordered a halt to the practice near Youngstown this weekend after several minor earthquakes. The wells, known as injection wells, have been proliferating in Ohio to accommodate growing volumes of waste water left over from hydraulic fracturing, which involves blasting water, sand and chemicals underground to break apart dense layers of rock to free up oil and gas.

OPINION

George Korda: Stacey Campfield and the politics of winning even if he loses (N-S)

State Sen. Stacey Campfield knows how to draw a crowd. The Knox County senator probably collects more publicity than any legislator except the General Assembly’s top leadership. His legislative initiatives drive some people (particularly left-wing Tennesseans) to Maalox overdoses for two reasons: his existence offends them and he keeps winning elections.

Free-Press Editorial: DesJarlais draws the line in sand on federal spending (TFP)

Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee’s nearby 4th District is taking seriously his opposition to out-of-control federal spending. You may have read a recent article in the Times Free Press noting that DesJarlais has the second-lowest staff costs of any of the 435 members of the House of Representatives.

Editorial: Tennessee delegation gets it right on expenses (Daily News Journal)

Tennessee’s first-term House members have a lesson to teach in frugality. And it’s an example we hope their senior counterparts will follow. According to a Gannett Washington Bureau analysis of records from the first three quarters of the year, Republican Reps. Diane Black of Gallatin, Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump, Scott DesJarlais of Jasper and Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah have spent a smaller portion of their annual office budgets than their more senior colleagues.

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