Press Releases

February 9 TN News Digest

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

Haslam: Education Reform a Work in Progress (TN Report)

Gov. Bill Haslam Wednesday sought feedback on the state of education in Tennessee, and on his related initiatives, during a morning visit to a Williamson County school. After reading a story and taking questions from a 3rd grade class at Scales Elementary School in Brentwood, the governor sat down for a round table discussion with teachers and administrators.

Haslam hears teachers’ fears (Tennessean/Giordano)

Governor says plan for larger class sizes, pay changes needs more discussion If there’s one notion Gov. Bill Haslam can take away from his discussion with Scales Elementary School teachers Wednesday, it’s their concerns about Senate Bill 2210. The proposed legislation that would allow school districts to redesign teacher salary schedules and use maximum class sizes rather than average pupil-teacher ratios in school district funding formulas was called the “gorilla in the room” by the school’s principal, Rick West. Haslam and his wife, Crissy Haslam, were at the Williamson County school for a two-fold visit.

Teachers Question Haslam Over Class-size Proposal (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Governor Bill Haslam heard more criticism from teachers today over a controversial education proposal. Haslam wants to give city and county school boards more power to raise class sizes and tweak how much they pay teachers. Haslam faced tough questions from teachers in Williamson County over what exactly his proposal would mean.

Official: 10 states to get education waiver (Associated Press)

President Obama on Thursday will free 10 states from the strict and sweeping requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, giving leeway to states that promise to improve how they prepare and evaluate students, The Associated Press has learned. The first 10 states to receive the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Schools Law Earns One Credit (Wall Street Journal)

The Obama administration is expected to announce Friday it is granting 10 states waivers from the No Child Left Behind law, according to people familiar with the decision, in what would be the strongest move yet to undermine the decade-old education initiative. Eleven states had applied for waivers from key tenets of the law, but the people familiar with the decision wouldn’t say which states were selected.

Computer System Used To Fight Meth Showing Positive Results (WCYB-TV)

The state’s ongoing crackdown on items used to make meth is paying off. Part of Governor Bill Haslam’s plan brought a new computer system online, one that tracks who buys products used to make meth. The system is called the National Precursor Log Exchange, known as NPLEx, and it is already doing it’s job.

State promoting Tennessee businesses with website (Associated Press)

The state is promoting Tennessee businesses on a new section of the secretary of state’s website. Tennessee Business Spotlight will highlight selected companies, with summaries of what they do, photos, contact information and links to their Internet and social media sites.

Haslam May Step Up for Romney, Says TN “Critical” in GOP Primary (WPLN-Radio)

Governor Bill Haslam could soon step up his role campaigning for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Last night Romney lost out to Rick Santorum in three states, and the race seems poised to stretch into Tennessee next month. When asked what Haslam makes of Santorum’s newfound momentum, the governor joked he’s been wrong in predictions about the race several times already.

Residents can call and apply for TennCare spend down program (Tenn/Wilemon)

Phone lines will open 6 p.m. Feb. 21 for state residents to call and request applications to enroll in the TennCare Standard Spend Down program. This is a program for people who do not currently receive TennCare.

Governor’s budget jeopardizes Center for Child Welfare at MTSU (DNJ)

The governor’s budget would effectively kill MTSU’s Center for Child Welfare by ending a contract with the Department of Children’s Services next fiscal year, an official said. The center, which is responsible for training social workers across Tennessee, employs nearly 60 people who are based at the Bank of America building in Murfreesboro.

Family service agency faces elimination (Mountain Press)

Some local folks are decrying a cut in Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed budget that could mean the end for the Family Resource Center, which provides a myriad of important services for local residents. A letter-writing campaign is being mounted in support of the local agency, which is led by Kim Loveday, and the 103 other ones across the state in hopes Haslam or state lawmakers will be swayed to save the funding.

State threatens suit against boat hobbyists (WSMV-TV Nashville)

The Tennessee Department of Revenue is threatening court action against a Murfreesboro man who built a small wooden boat in his garage with his 7-year-old son. The state says that makes him a boat dealer and subject to paying extra taxes.

UTC tries to keep students on road to graduation (Times Free-Press/Trevizo)

“How did studying your sociology book every day go?” “Did you meet with your chemistry professor?” That’s how teacher Stacie Grisham starts the Mindset: Soaring to New Heights class at UTC, a class recommended for students whose grade point average has fallen below 2.0, which places them on academic probation.

UTHSC professor lands $6 million in grants (Memphis Business Journal)

A University of Tennessee Health Science Center professor has received four grants totaling $6 million from the National Institutes of Health to fund research on vascular disease. The total amount of the grants gives Gadiparthi Rao, a professor in the Department of Physiology, the highest number of grants held by an individual at UTHSC.

Colleges fatigued by threat to funds (Commercial Appeal/Kelley)

Obama’s admonitions do little to encourage President Obama delivered welcome news to college students last week with his warning to administrators that “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down.” Administrators who have seen state support for higher education steadily decline for the last decade responded with less enthusiasm.

Tennessee Chevy Volt buyers to get $2,500 rebate (Memphis Business Journal)

The incentive to buy an electric car is even more enticing in Tennessee as Chevrolet Volt owners are now eligible for a $2,500 rebate from the state of Tennessee. The rebate requires owners of the electric Chevy to qualify for and participate in The EV Project, a national study on electric vehicle use and charging infrastructure.

Murfreesboro’s VA center closes housing for drug treatment patients (Gannett)

Liability issues have forced the York VA Medical Center to suspend housing for veterans seeking substance abuse treatment there, a move that one opponent says is cutting the number of people enrolled in the four-week plan. Bill Mitchell, who retired as a substance abuse counselor from the York VA a year ago, said 80 percent of the veterans treated for substance abuse are homeless, so it makes no sense to cut off housing, especially because the lodging area was renovated within the past two years.

Prison Break (Memphis Flyer)

Free time can be dangerous for ex-cons who haven’t been properly introduced back into society, according to Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (BOPP) chairman Charles Traughber. “If I leave you in here with an hour to do nothing, you could get in all kinds of trouble,” Traughber said, referring to inmates who have been categorized as high-risk by BOPP.

Bill to Seal Some ECD Records Ready For General Assembly Vote (WPLN-Radio)

Part of Governor Bill Haslam’s legislative package is a measure to seal the financial information filed by a company seeking state incentives. The measure is moving quickly through the legislature.

New laws to combat drug abuse (Jackson Sun)

New laws to supervise and restrict the sale of controlled prescription drugs are being considered and passed by state lawmakers in an effort to reduce the number of deaths from controlled substance abuse. The laws are the first of several to come from Governor Bill Haslam’s Public Safety Action Plan Subcabinet Working Group.

Jimmy Wayne makes plea for Tenn. foster services (Associated Press)

Country singer Jimmy Wayne is urging Tennessee lawmakers to extend a program providing services to young adults transitioning out of foster care. The program is set to expire in June, but Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has included about $890,000 in his spending proposal to keep it going.

State Representative Seeks Lower Absentee Ballot Age (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee legislators are proposing more tweaks to address a law that requires a photo ID to vote. The issue has become complicated because Tennessee allows seniors age 60 and over to have a driver’s license without a photo.

No Netflix Bill Rewrite (TN Report)

The revision planned for last year’s controversial “Netflix bill” has been deemed unnecessary by the legislation’s sponsor, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, who withdrew it from consideration Wednesday. McCormick said prosecuting lawful account sharing was not the intent of the bill.

Norris says bill on annexation remains alive (Commercial Appeal/Locker)

State Senate Republican Leader Mark Norris of Collierville said Wednesday that nothing has changed on the status of his legislation to remove the Fisherville area from Memphis’ annexation reserve zone, despite remarks by a Fisherville leader that he would ask that the state bill be pulled. Norris said he thinks the state attorney general is about to issue an opinion that Norris requested on the bill but that he hasn’t received it yet.

The Fixer (Memphis Flyer)

Mark Norris, the Collierville Republican who is majority leader of the Tennessee state Senate, is aware that in certain quarters he is developing a reputation as some sort of éminence grise, a hardball-playing legislator intent upon enforcing his will, or that of the Shelby County suburbs vis-à-vis the city of Memphis, come what may. And he is aware that Norris-Todd, the 2011 legislation that largely governs the terms of city/county school merger — while explicitly giving the suburbs an out from the process — is a major part of his legacy.

Tenn.’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill delayed in committee (Associated Press)

Opponents of a measure that seeks to ban Tennessee public schools from teaching about gay issues said Wednesday they will continue to show up in large groups to protest the legislation. The proposal, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, is sponsored by Rep. Joey Hensley and was scheduled to be heard in the House Education Subcommittee.

Teens Protesting “Don’t Say Gay” Watch as Bill is Deferred (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

State lawmakers avoided taking up a bill yesterday the would bar schools from even mentioning homosexuality. While legislators put off the issue, more than 150 of the bill’s opponents stood and sat in the legislative hallways, watching and talking among themselves.

Cheatham Legislator Backs Teachers at Student Prayer Groups (WPLN-Radio)

A controversy over “Prayer at the Flagpole” in Cheatham County has surfaced two years later in the General Assembly. A state representative is trying to overturn a school board decision that restricts teacher participation.

Both Parties Are Having Trouble Finding Possible Replacements for Tindell (MP)

Not much has changed in that Republicans and Democrats alike are finding it difficult to find good candidates to replace the departing state Rep. Harry Tindell, D-Knoxville. Though the redrawn district is now slightly Republican, the Democrats are not going to give it up without a fight.

Some Knox commissioners hope state censures Campfield (NS/Donila, Humphrey)

Knox County Commissioner Sam McKenzie wants Stacey Campfield’s state Senate colleagues to censure him over recent controversial remarks the Knoxville Republican made about gays and the origin of the AIDS epidemic. He is spearheading a County Commission resolution that directs the board’s chairman to ask state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville, to initiate proceedings against Campfield.

Chattanooga to pay fees for mayor Ron Littlefield recall flap (TFP/Haman)

The Hamilton County Election Commission plans to bill the city of Chattanooga for the legal fees resulting from Mayor Ron Littlefield’s recall challenge. The commission, which is funded by the county, has racked up at least $9,000 in legal bills since Littlefield filed suit in April to stop the commission from certifying recall petitions and related court action.

Knox law director: Nothing ‘compromised’ in disk downloaded (NS/Donila)

Law director says nothing ‘compromised’ Knox County Law Director Joe Jarret on Wednesday looked over a disk of information that Knox County Human Resources Director Frances Fogerson wanted downloaded from personal files she kept on her office computer. Fogerson initially took the disk home but returned it at Jarret’s request. “It contains personal files of hers and a couple of personnel files, but I have no reason to believe that any employee personal information was compromised, nor that her actions were intentional,” Jarret said.

Birth-control rule riles TN religious leaders, GOP (Tennessean/Bewley)

They say insurance mandate is unjust, infringes on rights Angry Republican lawmakers and religious leaders in Tennessee say they’ll fight a controversial federal requirement that church-affiliated employers offer benefits covering birth control. Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander this week signed onto a bill by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida that would exempt employers from providing health-insurance coverage for contraceptive services if they oppose such services on religious grounds.

Officials: Federal bill could decrease HOPE funding (Daily Helmsman)

University of Memphis President Shirley Raines is among officials opposed to a bill in Congress that they said might cause a decrease in funding for HOPE Lottery Scholarships. A measure to legalize online poker playing in the United States has been proposed by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), something many state governors argue would create competition for state lottery revenue and reduce funding for lottery scholarships as a result.

$6.8M flood control project starts in Bristol (Associated Press)

$6.8 million project aimed at reducing floodwater damage is under way in Bristol, Tenn. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a contract for work designed to allow Beaver Creek to flow more easily through the downtown area, according to the Bristol Herald Courier ( Aspen Construction of Minnesota is removing a large box culvert beneath a former Sears building in the first phase of the work, which is expected to be finished in about 90 days.

States Negotiate $26 Billion Deal for Homeowners (New York Times)

After months of painstaking talks, government authorities and five of the nation’s biggest banks have agreed to a $26 billion settlement that could provide relief to nearly two million current and former American homeowners harmed by the bursting of the housing bubble, state and federal officials said. It is part of a broad national settlement aimed at halting the housing market’s downward slide and holding the banks accountable for foreclosure abuses.

States slowly opening courts to cameras (Stateline)

When the U.S. Supreme Court hears challenges to the national health care law this spring, fewer than 2,000 people, including press, guests, and representatives of the public, will be able to see the court proceedings with their own eyes. That’s because the nation’s highest court imposes an unequivocal ban on cameras in the courtroom.

Training center opens in Chattanooga as Wacker set to expand (TFP/Pare)

Wacker officials say that injecting $300 million more into its Bradley County plant will hike capacity by 20 percent, and the opening Wednesday of a training center will ensure skilled workers for its factory. “Without that, we couldn’t start up,” said Ingomar Kovar, chief executive of Wacker Chemical, about its high-tech training facility in Chattanooga.

Memphis mayor launches new initiative to help small businesses (CA/Dowd)

The mayor of Memphis has a new plan to streamline city government and boost entrepreneurship. Speaking to more than 100 minority and women business owners and executives Wednesday, A C Wharton introduced his administration’s Memphis Office of Resources and Enterprise (MORE) initiative, a new effort to make it easier for small businesses to bid on, and win, local government contracts. Previously, Wharton said, the city had no centralized system to assist entrepreneurs with issues such as how to obtain business licenses or how to bid on city contracts, or even how to grow their companies.

Pristine land is in pipeline path (Tennessean/Paine)

Radnor Lake area, pricey communities would be affected Piedmont Natural Gas plans to build a 13.5-mile pipeline with a preliminary route charted through some of the most high-priced neighborhoods in town as well as the popular Radnor Lake State Natural Area. Letters should begin arriving today telling 300 property owners about the $60 million project that could cross their land, said David Trusty, a spokesman for the company.

Piedmont Plans Pipeline Through Radnor Lake (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Property owners across southern Davidson County are receiving letters from Piedmont Natural Gas, informing them of plans for a new pipeline. The underground gas line is just 13 miles long, but it cuts through some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the region, as well as one of the most popular parks in the state – Radnor Lake.

Haslam proposal could cost Kingsport schools $141,000 (Times-News)

Kingsport schools could lose about $141,000 — the state funding portion for 37 teaching positions — under Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative proposal, school officials said Wednesday. Kingsport Board of Education member Susan Lodal, during a meeting with parents, said she has serious reservations about Haslam’s proposal to loosen up class-size restrictions because of the potential financial impact on the more than 500 teachers in the city system of about 7,000 students.

School leaders say wait and see (Tennessean/Giordano)

Both the Williamson County and the Franklin Special School District school boards took no action Monday against a proposed state Senate bill that would increase the maximum class size and give districts the ability to redesign the teacher salary schedule. Nevertheless, board members and school directors Mike Looney and David Snowden vowed to keep a close watch on the bill and said they would meet again.

Shelby County Commission set to revisit school property issue (CA/Connolly)

The Shelby County Commission has scheduled a special meeting for 2 p.m. Friday to revisit the question of how the county’s unified school board could sell school buildings to any new municipal school systems that come into existence. The two public school districts in the Memphis area are merging, which has prompted some suburban town governments to consider creating their own school systems.

Schools plead case why state should decline charters (CA/Roberts)

City and county school leaders filed a response to the state Wednesday explaining how the districts will suffer if forced to approve 17 new charter schools. The response comes four weeks after state Treasurer David Lillard requested data from the charter applicants and both school superintendents, telling them in a Jan. 10 letter to respond “as expeditiously as possible.”

Florida: Scott asks Facebook users for one word, gets an earful (TB Tribune)

On Monday night, Gov. Rick Scott — really his staff — asked the nearly 80,000 people who follow his Facebook page to fill in the blank: “If you could use one word to describe Florida’s 2012 legislative session, it would be ___________. COMMENT below!” People commented. Racist • Yankeeville • Advancing • Criminal • Too slow for progress • Underachievement • Successful • Winning. Energized, but we still need to drill.

Pennsylvania: Tax on Gas Industry Is Approved (New York Times)

The Pennsylvania House narrowly approved legislation on Wednesday that would authorize a tax on the natural gas industry in exchange for limiting the control that municipalities would have over where companies could drill. Lawmakers approved the legislation 101 to 90, according to State Representative Jesse J. White, a Democrat who voted against the bill, known as House Bill 1950.


Free-Press Editorial: Don’t enshrine flawed judge selection process (TFP)

The Tennessee Constitution calls for the popular election of state Supreme Court and appellate judges. Instead, Tennessee has had since the 1970s a system in which judges are first appointed by the governor, and then serve for a period of time before there is a public, yes-no vote on whether they will be retained. That process supposedly removes politics from the process. But in reality, it merely keeps judges from having to be accountable to the voting public for their decisions.

Editorial: No place for politics (Commercial Appeal)

Politics and judges shouldn’t mix. Having “Democrat” or “Republican” after a judicial candidate’s name should not be a measure of whether he or she is qualified to dispense unbiased rulings. Unfortunately, we’ve crossed that road with some local and state judgeships.

Editorial: UT demonstrates its leadership in educational value (News-Sentinel)

Despite steep tuition increases in the past few years, the University of Tennessee Knoxville is one of the best public higher educational values in America, according to the Princeton Review. UT made the list of 75 top-value public institutions released Tuesday.

Columnist: Next Month’s Primary Golden Opportunity to Screw With Campfield (MP)

There is an election next month, with early voting beginning Feb. 15. Did you know Stacey Campfield is on the ballot? Campfield is on the slate of delegates committed to Newt Gingrich for president.

Frank Cagle: Knoxville’s Traditional Power Centers Have Dead Batteries (M. Pulse)

The times, they are a-changing. Trustee John Duncan III ought to send Gloria Ray flowers. Her troubles with the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. have kept him off the front page or the lead TV news items for a few days. Were it not for Ray’s troubles, the story about County Mayor Tim Burchett saying that if the allegations are true then young Duncan should quit his post would have made a bigger stir.

Clay Bennett Political Cartoon: “Mayfield for Congress” (Times Free-Press)

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