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January 20 TN News Digest

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

Haslam, Parton Pair Up (TN Report)

Dolly Parton is planning to build the nation’s first snow and water park in Nashville, and taxpayers are going to help foot the bill — an unknown amount about which officials hemmed and hawed at a Thursday announcement. Gov. Bill Haslam is promising Parton new road turnoffs and infrastructure grants for the country music star’s new amusement park planned to open summer 2014 in Nashville.

Dolly Parton plans Nashville water/snow park (Associated Press/Edwards)

Dolly Parton plans a water-snow park in Nashville, described as the first of its kind in the country, to join her other tourist attractions in East Tennessee. The new $50 million venture, announced Thursday on Parton’s 66th birthday, is a 114-acre park projected to open as early as summer 2014.

Dollywood partnering in new Nashville theme park (CNN)

Country music legend Dolly Parton on Thursday announced her company is in a partnership to open a new theme park in Nashville. The new 50/50 joint venture between Gaylord Entertainment Co. and Dollywood will be developed on a 114-acre site for a family entertainment zone across from the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Convention Center.

Dolly Parton, Gaylord to open Nashville amusement park (Nash. Biz Journal)

Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment Co . (NYSE: GET) announced plans today to build a $50 million water and snow park in Nashville as part of a partnership with country star Dolly Parton. The park would be the first major amusement attraction to come to Nashville since the closure of Opryland in 1997.

Amusement park coming to Nashville (Nashville Post)

The first water-and-snow park in the country is coming to Nashville thanks in part to country music star Dolly Parton. The Dollywood Company and Gaylord Entertainment are partnering to invest an initial $50 million in the park — which will be Phase I of a larger “family entertainment zone” across Briley Parkway from the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

Parton, Gaylord to open Nashville water-and-snow amusement park (TN/Cass, Rau)

A few years after Gaylord Entertainment Co. closed the Opryland USA theme park in 1997, the company hired a new chairman and CEO. Colin Reed quickly learned firsthand how attached many people were to the Donelson attraction.

Parton, Gaylord team up to bring water, snow park to Nashville (CP/Greenberg)

The first water-and-snow park in the country is coming to Nashville thanks in part to country music star Dolly Parton. The Dollywood Company and Gaylord Entertainment are partnering to invest an initial $50 million in the park — which will be Phase I of a larger “family entertainment zone” across Briley Parkway from the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

Dollywood, Gaylord partnering on $50M Nashville theme park (N-S/Harrington)

Dolly Parton celebrated her birthday in Music City Thursday, where Sevier County’s favorite daughter was doing the giving. Parton announced a joint venture with Gaylord Entertainment to build a $50 million water and snow park as part of a 114-acre family entertainment zone adjacent to Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center near downtown Nashville.

Dollywood, Gaylord to Build Park Near Old Opryland Site (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Nashville is getting a new attraction near the former site of Opryland theme park. Country star Dolly Parton and Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment are partnering to build a water and snow park. Parton opened her popular Dollywood theme park in the Smoky Mountains in 1986.

Amusement park caps whirlwind recovery for Opryland area (Nash. Biz Journal)

Thursday’s news that Dolly Parton and Gaylord Entertainment Co. (NYSE: GET) are teaming up to bring an amusement park to Nashville is a $50 million shot in the arm for an area that’s had a string of good news. And honestly, how many people thought that sentence would be written less than two years since the devastating flood of May of 2010?

Dolly Parton: Making her Nashville mark. Again. (Nashville Business Journal)

When a combination of bubbles and fake snow fell from the ceiling of the Grand Ole Opry House Thursday, country music star Dolly Parton joked that she should have wore her “hard hair.” Parton, who has lived in Nashville for more than 40 years, stood alongside Gaylord Entertainment Co. CEO Colin Reed to announce a $50 million amusement park planned on 114 acres of land owned by Gaylord (NYSE: GET).

Park expected to do well but not match Opryland’s economic splash (TN/Williams)

Water and snow attraction could draw 600,000 visitors a year Bringing a water and snow park to the Gaylord Opryland Resort area will be a big boost to the region’s economy, but it won’t come close to replacing what was lost when the Opryland USA theme park shut down, some experts say. The once-popular theme park, with its unique blend of rides and Nashville-influenced musical entertainment, attracted more than 2 million visitors each year during its limited season, while the water and snow park might bring up to 600,000, even with its year-round operation, amusement-industry sources say.

Hawkins plant to add 33 jobs with $1.4 million expansion (Times-News)

A $1.4 million expansion of the Ware Manufacturing plant in Hawkins County is expected to include the addition of 33 new manufacturing jobs. In August, the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board approved the sale of 1.5 acres to Ware Manufacturing behind the pet product manufacturer’s existing plant at the Phipps Bend Industrial Park.

Company expansion brings jobs to Hawkins County (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

A Hawkins County company is expanding, bringing 33 more manufacturing jobs to the county. Governor Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty joined with Ware Manufacturing, Inc. representatives to announce the company’s decision to expand its Surgoinsville facility Thursday morning.

Tennessee unemployment rate falls to 8.7 percent (Memphis Business Journal)

Tennessee’s unemployment rate in December fell to 8.7 percent, the lowest it has been since December 2008, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development. The state’s revised unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in November.

TN jobless rate hits 3-year low in December (Tennessean/Marsteller)

Manufacturing, construction rally Construction and manufacturing, two sectors that profusely bled jobs during the recession, now are leading the healing of Tennessee’s labor market. The state’s unemployment rate fell to 8.7 percent in December, the lowest in three years, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday.

TN Unemployment Falls to Lowest Levels Since 2008 (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee’s unemployment rate dropped substantially last month, falling to the lowest level since December 2008. The state labor department announced Thursday unemployment stands at 8.7 percent.

Tennessee unemployment rate fell to 8.7 percent in December (C. Appeal)

Tennessee’s unemployment rate fell in December to 8.7 percent, down four-tenths of a percentage point from the November rate of 9.1 percent, the state reported Thursday. “This is the lowest unemployment rate Tennessee has experienced since December 2008 when the rate was 8.4 percent,” said Karla Davis, state commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.

UT-Knoxville spends record on research in 2011 (Associated Press)

The University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus spent a record $153.8 million in research and public service programs for federal and state governments and private industry in fiscal year 2011. The school said in a news release that the figure was more than $20 million over the previous fiscal year.

Univ. of Memphis among winners of fed grants to study transportation (CA/Risher)

The University of Memphis has hooked up with the University of Wisconsin and eight others to conduct federally funded research and education about freight movement and transportation infrastructure. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a $3.5 million grant to the consortium led by Wisconsin-Madison and Memphis, among $77 million in grants to 22 newly designated University Transportation Centers. DOT received 63 applications for the grants.

Quake drill is critical (Times-Gazette)

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency is encouraging schools, families and businesses to participate in an earthquake drill next month. Registration is open for the second annual Great Central U. S. ShakeOut earthquake drill, scheduled for Feb. 7 at 10:15 a.m..

Tenn. panel hasn’t posted regular meeting notices (Associated Press)

A state commission that recently was in court over allegations it crafted an immigration policy in secret hasn’t regularly posted notices of upcoming meetings on its website during the past two years. The Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission is the primary regulatory body for Tennessee law enforcement and usually meets monthly.

Measure banning income tax passes House (Associated Press)

Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban an income tax in Tennessee say it’s unnecessary and politically motivated. The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Glen Casada, of Franklin, was approved 73-17 on Thursday.

TN House approves anti-income tax amendment (Tennessean/Sisk)

The state House of Representatives approved the wording of a constitutional amendment banning a state income tax Thursday, taking a step toward putting the issue before voters in 2014 — even though the courts have ruled repeatedly that one can’t be imposed anyway. Lawmakers voted 73-17 for the amendment, SJR 221, which grew out of the debate over a state income tax that wracked the Capitol a decade ago.

Tennessee income tax ban jumps legislative hurdle (Commercial Appeal/Locker)

Tennessee legislators have taken the first step toward a state constitutional amendment banning any state or local tax on earned personal income or payrolls. The vote Thursday comes a decade after anti-tax protests roiled the state Capitol, prompting lawmakers to reject a proposed state income tax.

Anti-Income Tax Amendment Half Way to Being on Ballot (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Seven months after Republicans first brought it up for a vote– the state House finally approved a proposal to put anti-income tax language in the Tennessee constitution. Republicans wanted to pass the resolution at their last meeting in May – but not enough lawmakers stuck around after passing a budget.

Tipton County restored to TN redistricting plan (Associated Press)

The Senate has voted to restore Tipton County to the upper chamber’s redistricting plan. The West Tennessee county that is in Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris’ redrawn district, had been inadvertently omitted by the upper chamber when it passed its plan last week.

Leniency urged for woman facing gun charges, not for officials (NS/Humphrey)

State Rep. Frank Niceley has coupled a plea for New York officials to show leniency toward a Blount County woman arrested on gun charges with what he calls “a little humorous threat” for New Yorkers traveling in Tennessee. In a resolution introduced by Niceley would formally put the state Legislature on record of supporting Meredith Graves, who was arrested in New York City on felony gun charges last month after asking a security guard the proper procedure for checking in her pistol after seeing a “no guns allowed” sign at the World Trade Center Memorial.

Cobb to seek new state Senate seat (Columbia Daily Herald)

A Columbia firefighter and former state representative announced his intention to run for a new state Senate seat created in Tennessee’s redistricting process. Democrat Ty Cobb’s Thursday announcement follows a decision by Republican state Rep. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald to run for the new Senate District 28 seat representing Maury, Giles, Lawrence, Lewis, Perry and Wayne counties.

Knox County Trustee’s Office investigation under way (Knox News-Sentinel/Donila)

A Knox County Trustee’s Office employee suspected of taking state-administered computer tests on behalf of his co-workers has retained a criminal defense attorney. Also, a criminal investigation into the department is under way, authorities said. Defense attorney Gregory P. Isaacs confirmed Thursday that Zach Brezina, an analyst with the Trustee’s Office since September 2010, has retained him.

Fleischmann pledges Bradley County storm payments (Times Free-Press/Carroll)

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said the federal government would reimburse Bradley County for tornado cleanup costs within 90 days “if everything goes smoothly.” But emergency management officials said the county shouldn’t expect an immediate windfall.

Nashville health department faces layoffs as stimulus funds spent (TN/Wilemon)

Board to consider cutting jobs as funding from 2009 stimulus runs out in March The Metro board of health will consider employee layoffs when it meets Tuesday because the money that has funded 40 positions runs out in March. Those jobs were supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

As 2012 agenda unfolds, to raise or cut taxes is the big question (Stateline)

As state lawmakers gather for their 2012 legislative sessions, taxes are emerging as a key issue, with at least half a dozen Republican governors pressing for sweeping tax cuts and just as many Democrats pushing for tax increases. One of the biggest tax battles will be in New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie is calling for an across-the-board 10 percent cut in the state income tax.

TVA orders unpaid safety work stoppage at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant (TFP/Sohn)

TVA has ordered an unpaid safety work stoppage at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant for about 1,000 contract workers after finding cables had been erroneously removed from Unit 1 — the operating reactor — in December. Last week, a valve in Unit 2, the reactor now under construction at the plant, also was removed from another system without workers following proper guidelines.

Clayton Homes, TVA partner on energy efficiency incentive (News-Sentinel/Brass)

A new partnership between TVA and Clayton Homes guarantees an Energy Star-rated home, at no extra cost, to anyone in the Tennessee Valley who purchases a new house from the Blount County manufacturer. Under the initiative, TVA will pay a $1,500 incentive — $1,450 for Clayton and $50 to a third-party administrator — to outfit each manufactured home with energy efficient heating and cooling units, compact fluorescent lighting, Energy Star appliances, high-performance windows, insulation systems and construction systems that will make the homes airtight.

First meeting of EDGE starts ‘new day’ for Memphis economic development (MBJ)

The chairman of the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis and Shelby County challenged members of the appointed body to “think through how to streamline the process” of increasing jobs and capital investment in Memphis under the new semi-government body. “Today is a new day,” chairman Al Bright said as part of his opening comments during the first official meeting of the 11-member EDGE board Wednesday.

Food Lion closings to expand Chattanooga area ‘food deserts’ (TFP/O’Neil)

It takes hours for thousands of Chattanoogans to get to the grocery store. With Food Lion shutting down seven of its eight Chattanooga-area stores, that number is only going to rise. “It’s going to be horrible,” said Angela Henry, a Harriet Tubman housing development resident.

Nashville tech firm to open site in Atlanta (Associated Press)

Executives of a Tennessee-based technology firm say they plan to build a software development center in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (http://bit.ly/y1LIvM) that the project is expected to create 100 jobs initially and could expand to employ up to 250 workers over the next few years.

Two new Nashville charter schools to be proposed (Tennessean)

At least two charter school applicants will seek approval from the Metro Nashville school board to open in August 2013. Great Hearts Academies wants to develop a classical, liberal arts charter school initially serving grades K-9, then growing a grade per year until it’s K-12.

Lakeland ponders tax options to fund schools (Commercial Appeal/Bailey)

If Lakeland wants to fund its own school system, the county’s youngest city may have to implement its first property tax since incorporating 35 years ago. Lakeland could rely on a proposed half-cent local option sales tax to try and cover the state-required local investment equal to 15 cents on the city’s property tax rate, according to the feasibility study on municipal schools by Southern Educational Strategies.

2nd meth lab found on Forest Avenue (Jackson Sun)

Jackson man charged with making meth, trespass in quarantined house Jackson-Madison County Metro Narcotics investigators said they arrested a man after they found him operating a meth lab in a house that had been quarantined after authorities previously found a lab there. Patrol officers with the Jackson Police Department were dispatched Monday to 322 W. Forest Ave. to investigate a report of an open door at the house, according to a news release.

OPINION

Editorial: State officials help win fight over sunshine law (News-Sentinel)

The effort to gut Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act has been called off for this legislative session, a welcome development that shows many in Nashville understand the importance of transparency in local government. House Speaker Beth Harwell stepped in to voice opposition to a bill that would allow members of local legislative bodies to meet in private as long as a quorum isn’t present, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Guest columnist: Legislature must focus on workers’ needs (Tennessean)

Now that the legislature has started back up and finished the redistricting process, it is time for them to focus on meeting the needs of average Tennesseans. This means creating laws that ensure that people have resources they need to find a good job.

Editorial: $1 billion in investments (Commercial Appeal)

Amid all the dismal economic news, an announcement by the Memphis and Shelby County mayors this week demonstrates that the city-county economy is not completely moribund. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and county Mayor Mark Luttrell announced Tuesday that private businesses invested more than $1 billion in Shelby County during 2011.

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