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February 14 TN News Digest

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

Haslam: Obamacare ‘Unaffordable,’ Oversteps Federal Authority (TN Report)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today expressed his support of a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by the Republican Governor Public Policy Committee (RGPPC) arguing against the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The amicus brief, filed by the RGPPC of which Haslam is a member, is the first ever submitted to the Supreme Court by the committee.

Haslam part of Amicus Brief challenging Obamacare (Clarksville Online)

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today expressed his support of a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by the Republican Governor Public Policy Committee (RGPPC) arguing against the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The amicus brief, filed by the RGPPC of which Haslam is a member, is the first ever submitted to the Supreme Court by the committee.

Halsam among GOP governors filing brief opposing Affordable Care Act (WVLT-TV)

Gov. Bill Haslam joined with other Republican governors arguing against the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “The Obama administration’s approach is an unaffordable healthcare mandate that is a significant overstep of the federal government’s authority,” Haslam said.

Saks Incorporated Announces Plans for New Distribution, Fulfillment Facility (EON)

Retailer Saks Incorporated (NYSE: SKS) (“Saks or the “Company”) today announced it will expand its distribution and fulfillment capacity, adding a new facility in Tennessee in 2012. he new distribution and fulfillment center will occupy approximately 564,000 square feet of leased space and will be located in LaVergne, Tennessee, which is in Rutherford County and near the state capital of Nashville.

Saks to open Tennessee distribution center (Associated Press)

Luxury department store chain Saks Inc. said Monday that it will open a distribution and fulfillment facility in Tennessee this year. Saks said the center will occupy about 564,000 square feet of leased space in LaVergne, Tenn. and be equipped with a robotic fulfillment system similar to the one in use at the retailer’s Maryland facility.

Saks La Vergne facilty to open this fall, employ 250 (Nashville Business Journal)

It’s official: Retailer Saks Inc. is bringing a distribution center to La Vergne this fall, where it will ultimately employ more than 250 full-time workers. A month ago, the Nashville Business Journal reported the luxury retailer was close to signing a lease for a 564,000-square-foot warehouse at 1 Walden Books Drive, the former Borders distribution facility.

Saks plans La Vergne shipping center (Tennessean/Marsteller)

Saks Inc. will get up to $750,000 in state and local incentives to occupy the former Borders distribution center in La Vergne later this year. The state has agreed to give the upscale retailer job-training and infrastructure grants equal to $3,000 for each of the 250 employees expected to work there at peak capacity, a Saks spokeswoman said.

Saks Fulfillment Center Will Take Place of Borders (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

New York-based luxury retail chain Saks Incorporated announced Monday it will open a distribution and fulfillment center in LaVergne later this year. The company is taking over the building recently vacated by the troubled Borders Group.

Haslam drug bills advance in Senate (Associated Press)

Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposals to crack down on the sale or manufacture of certain drugs are advancing in the Senate. Both bills are part of the Republican governor’s crime package and are carried by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville. They were unanimously approved by the Senate Monday evening.

Costs of ‘Blanket Requests’ for Public Information Concerning to Haslam (TNR)

Gov. Bill Haslam says it may be time to reset the state’s policy for handling requests for public documents. Haslam’s administration is examining how each department handles requests for public records, saying the state needs to standardize how it responds and charges for the labor and time to provide records.

Capitol Hill Conversation-Classroom Size (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Governor Bill Haslam is talking about giving school districts more leeway in setting class sizes. It’s a proposal that has educators worried.

AUDIO: 

TennCare fraud charges for three Giles Co. women (Columbia Daily Herald)

Three people in Giles County have been charged with TennCare fraud after an undercover operation. All three arrests involved the sale of prescription drugs paid for by TennCare, according to a press release from the Office of Inspector and the Giles County Sheriff’s Office.

State rebounding from economic slump, UT professor says (News-Sentinel/Fowler)

Tennessee is slowly rebounding from the Great Recession, including a “simply remarkable” resurgence in manufacturing jobs, a University of Tennessee professor said Monday. But online sales and out-of-state purchases “has to be responsible for a lack of retail growth” in local markets, Donald Bruce said during the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Program of Work” luncheon. Online and out-of-state sales are depriving the state of $400 million a year in sales tax revenue, Bruce told 140 attendees.

State may crack down on construction worker classifications (M. Business Journal)

A state task force is recommending sterner penalties for companies found to be misclassifying construction workers after a study revealed such misclassifications are costing the state millions of dollars. The Employee Misclassification Advisory Task Force was formed in July 2011 to research insurance and tax fraud in the construction industry.

TDEC chief: Staff shakeup won’t weaken enforcement (Associated Press)

Commissioner Robert Martineau says the firing two top officials in the Environment and Conservation Department doesn’t indicate his agency is downgrading pollution enforcement efforts. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner in a Joint Government Operations Committee meeting on Monday questioned whether the shakeup signals Tennessee will become more “friendly to the polluters of this state” under Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

Nashville inmates at Bass prison earn college credits behind bars (Tenn/Hubbard)

Nashville State Community College instructors go to prison to teach classes Nashville State Community College is awarding credit to a new kind of student for the community college — prison inmates. The men’s prison at Charles Bass Correctional Complex in Nashville used to pass on federal grant money for education to help make inmates’ re-entry into society easier.

New TEMA app warns users of emergencies (WKRN-TV Nashville)

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency rolled out a mobile application on Monday to give emergency information to residents. The app, Ready-TN is only available for Android users, but an iPhone version is expected to be available soon in the near future.

TEMA gets early start on Severe Weather Week (WSMV-TV Nashville)

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service plan to give an early preview of Severe Weather Awareness Week on Monday. Severe Weather Awareness Week actually begins a week from today but TEMA wants to showcase a new app for Android enabled phones. The app uses GPS information to provide details on road conditions, shelters, severe weather, and emergency contacts.

App Released Ahead Of Severe Weather Awareness Week (WTVF-TV Nashville)

Next week is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Tennessee, and state officials want to make sure everyone is informed. Statistics show Tennessee leads the nation in nighttime tornadoes. Thirty two Tennesseans lost their lives to tornadoes in 2011, and 38 Tennesseans lost their lives directly due to weather last year as well. State experts said that’s why it’s important to know what to do when there is a severe weather outbreak.

Driver license service closure delays road tests weeks (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

Lines of people moved quickly in and out of the Strawberry Plains driver license station on Monday. Most customers said they waited around half an hour for services ranging from simple driver license renewals to hand-gun permits.

Road crews prepared if weather packs a punch (Tennessean/Haas)

Middle Tennessee drivers lucked out Monday evening as projected snow and sleet failed to materialize during the rush hour commute as feared. But this morning’s commute could prove messy in some areas. The wet weather entered the Middle Tennessee region before 7 p.m., with Williamson and Dickson counties seeing a dusting of snow that wasn’t expected to extend much further east.

Wintry mix likely Monday evening, TDOT says it’s ready (WKRN-TV Nashville)

Up to a half-inch of snow is possible in Nashville Monday evening before a snow to rain changeover overnight. The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for parts of Tennessee, including Franklin, Lincoln and Henry counties among others and parts of Kentucky.

Lottery jackpots may get bigger (USA Today)

The Powerball lottery that provided a lucky Rhode Island ticket holder $336.4 million could soon produce jackpots of $500 million or more. $1 billion? Not as crazy as it sounds.

Bill to close grant records stalls in Senate (Associated Press)

Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to block public access to business records used to make grant decisions has stalled in the Senate. The measure, carried by Republican Sen. Bo Watson of Hixson, was delayed Monday evening until Thursday after heavy debate.

Haslam’s bill to close some records stalls in Tennessee Senate (TFP/Sher)

Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to close public access to detailed information about companies seeking state grants and tax incentives ran into trouble Monday night when a senator called it an invitation to corruption. The measure, carried for the governor by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, was delayed until Thursday.

Haslam’s secrecy incentive bill flails (Commercial Appeal/Locker)

‘Who gets the money’ could be masked A bill sought by Gov. Bill Haslam to make secret the owners of companies given potentially millions of state taxpayers’ dollars in incentives faltered in the Senate Monday night under charges that it could lead to corruption. The bill, which was delayed to Thursday, would expand the information to be kept confidential that the state receives from businesses who seek economic development grants funded from public money, tax incentives and tax credits.

Illegal immigrants involved in fatal crashes may face higher bail (Tenn/Haas)

A Republican lawmaker wants higher bails set for illegal immigrants involved in serious injury or fatal crashes. A bill proposed by state Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas would lead to higher bail amounts for illegal immigrants in those situations by automatically treating them as a flight risk — making it harder to bond out before trial.

Knoxville lawmaker’s bill seen as means to nullify bad federal laws (NS/Humphrey)

State Rep. Bill Dunn says his bill requiring federal agencies to notify local law enforcement officers before making arrests in Tennessee is a means of “standing up for the people” against an overreaching federal government. “There comes a point where we’ve got to put a little bit of pressure on the feds and stand up for our citizens,” the Knoxville Republican told members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee last week.

Tenn. Lawmakers Join Opposition to Obama Health Care Bill (Memphis Daily News)

A group of Tennessee lawmakers are joining their counterparts from around the country in registering with the U.S. Supreme Court their opposition to President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation, the health care reform bill. Oral argument before the high court is scheduled for March 27.

Occupy protesters seek apology from bill sponsor (Associated Press)

Occupy Nashville protesters are demanding an apology from the sponsor of legislation aimed at stopping them from staying overnight on the Capitol complex. The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric Watson of Cleveland could be up for floor votes in both chambers this week.

Some Occupy Nashville protesters brace for arrest (Associated Press)

Some Occupy Nashville protesters are vowing to stay camped out on the grounds of the Capitol complex and face arrest if a law is passed that makes it illegal for them to sleep on the grounds in protest. The decision came in an emergency meeting Monday afternoon where some protesters vowed to commit civil disobedience if the law is passed.

Occupy Nashville may face its last stand (Tennessean/Gonzalez)

Protesters try to keep movement alive despite winter, legislators With lawmakers threatening to kick them off War Memorial Plaza, Occupy Nashville demonstrators scrambled Monday to come up with a new way to carry on their protest. A small platoon set off for a new location — three blocks down at Public Square, which is owned by Metro and lies beyond the reach of a ban on camping on state property that lawmakers could take up as early as Thursday.

Occupy Nashville Members Plan For Possible Law (WTVF-TV Nashville)

Members of Occupy Nashville spent Monday afternoon deciding what to do next. State lawmakers are trying to pass legislation that would make it illegal for them to camp out at Legislative Plaza. Most Occupiers believe the law is going to pass.

Davis lays blame for business dealings on aldermen (Commercial Appeal/Jones)

Southaven Mayor Greg Davis, speaking publicly for the first time about business dealings that benefited friends and associates, said he believes he did nothing wrong because the city’s aldermen approved all transactions. Davis spoke at his home on Monday with The Commercial Appeal about controversial deals involving a Florida condominium he co-owns with a developer who has received more than $3.4 million through real estate dealings with the city since 2008, a fire station that could cost taxpayers up to $4 million because of an unusual no-bid contract negotiated by Davis, and other recently reported transactions.

Luttrell: Honest (but Cautious) Broker (Memphis Flyer)

Anyone attempting to locate Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell on the political spectrum might soon think himself lost on a road map reflecting back-and-forth meandering, abrupt directional switches, and confusion as to an ultimate destination point. The key word here is “might.” Actually, there is an admirable consistency to Luttrell’s sense of mission and Gestalt.

Dickson Seeks To Recount 2010 US Census (WTVF-TV Nashville)

Leaders in Dickson have been working around the clock. They’re trying to recount the 2010 census and prove their population did not decline by nearly five thousand. The city of Dickson stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if they can’t prove their population.

Sen. Corker responds to President Obama’s proposed budget (WVLT-TV Knoxville)

President Barack Obama unveiled a $3.8 trillion spending plan on Monday for 2013 that seeks to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade but does little to restrain growth in the government’s huge health benefit programs, a major cause of future deficits. Obama’s new budget was immediately attacked by Republicans as a retread of previously rejected ideas.

DesJarlais: President compounds failed policies (Columbia Daily Herald)

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais issued a brief statement Monday in response to President Obama’s 2013 budget. “I was truly hoping that the president would present a credible plan that puts America’s future before party politics.

Alexander Preps Base For March Republican Primary (Memphis Daily News)

Political gatherings are often places of unlikely coexistence. The 37th annual Lincoln Day Gala of the Shelby County Republican Party included an auction as the group of 600 party faithful at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn ate dinner. Except dinner at a political gathering always involves elected officials and those who want to be elected officials circulating around the room, shaking hands and waving. What was missing were any overwhelming indications of the race for the Republican presidential nomination that comes to Shelby County and Tennessee starting Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Weston Wamp stakes out his campaign platform (Times Free-Press/Carroll)

Standing a stone’s throw from a former eight-term Republican congressman — his father — Weston Wamp attacked “the same stale rhetoric that prevails in Washington” as he delivered the first major policy speech of his congressional campaign. “My generation says that worn-out, lame political rhetoric doesn’t solve problems,” Wamp, 24, said Monday, just before employing two political slogans.

Tennessee a Winner – So Far – in Defense Cut Plans (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

As the Pentagon prepares for deep budget cuts Tennessee is getting some good news from Air Force officials, but spending cuts could still be coming down the pike for the state’s military installations. To meet the Pentagon’s goal of saving $450 billion the Air Force wants to reshuffle the Air National Guard. So far the plan is an overall win for Tennessee.

Arnold center in Tennessee tests ICBM motor (Associated Press)

The Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee has tested one of the final Minutemen III intercontinental ballistic missile motors to roll off the assembly line. AEDC spokesmen said the motor met all specification requirements.

White House-sponsored forum this week in Memphis (Associated Press)

The White House-sponsored Asian American and Pacific Islander Forum is Wednesday and Thursday in Memphis. The event will allow local Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders to discuss their achievements and voice their concerns to White House staff.

Study: 1 in 8 U.S. voter registrations have errors (Associated Press/Baker)

About 24 million voter registrations in the United States contain significant errors, including about 1.8 million dead people still on the rolls and many more approved to vote in multiple states, according to a report released Tuesday. Even though the inaccuracies impact one in eight registrations, researchers at the Pew Center on the States said they don’t see it as an indicator of widespread fraud.

TVA power bills going down up to $1 in March (Associated Press)

Residential monthly bills for customers using Tennessee Valley Authority power will decrease up to $1 in March. The federal utility said Monday the fuel cost for next month will be the lowest in almost two years.

Electrical Malfunction at TVA’s Sequoyah Plant (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Valley Authority says an electrical malfunction at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant damaged some equipment, but did not affect operations. The Notification of Unusual Event sent to federal, state and local officials on Sunday is the lowest level of four Nuclear Regulatory Commission alert classifications.

Job Fair Precedes Long-Awaited Reopen of Opry Mills (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Opry Mills is staffing up ahead of its official re-opening next month. The shopping center hosts a job fair Tuesday.

FedEx to invest $141.8M to consolidate, expand flight-simulator ops (CA/Bailey)

FedEx plans to invest $141.8 million to consolidate and expand its flight-training simulator operations in Memphis. The company seeks a 13-year tax break on new manufacturing machinery and equipment and a six-year tax break on real property improvements to retain the existing 333 jobs at 3855 Airways.

FedEx Plans $141M Investment in Local Facility (Memphis Daily News)

FedEx, the Memphis-based shipping giant that employs more than 144,000 people worldwide, is planning to invest $141.9 million to expand its business by consolidating its training facilities into a single location. The company is planning to build a new facility east of and adjacent to its existing 3855 Airways Blvd. location.

Drug shortage side effects hit Chattanooga-area hospitals (TFP/Martin)

Levaquin — emergency only. Toradol — very little. Valproate. Studol — a few. On any given day, the crowded list on the pharmacy whiteboard at Erlanger Health System features 10 to 15 scribbled names, telling the story of record national drug shortages. Last year, drug shortages hit record numbers, more than double what they were five years ago, and experts say they expect 2012 to see even higher numbers.

School board size clarification sought (Commercial Appeal/Kelley)

Attorneys for the unified school board and the Shelby County Commission will confer with U.S. District Court Judge Samuel H. Mays Jr. today on one of the key points in his ruling last summer in the city-county school consolidation case: Did the judge, as the County Commission presumes, give the commission authority to create a 13-member school board to replace the seven-member Shelby County board? Some members of the school board want to know whether, in fact, the county would have to get permission from voters to change the size of the board.

Metro plans to double Teach For America hires in its schools (City Paper/Garrison)

Three years after Teach For America arrived in Nashville, Metro school officials are planning to double down on the national organization that builds instructors out of young, idealistic college graduates who lack traditional teaching certificates. A renewal of the district’s TFA contract is set go before the school board Tuesday night that would increase the number of TFA corps members Metro hires from an annual intake of 50 teachers to a new range of 80 to 100 each year.

Knox County school board discusses capital priorities (News-Sentinel/McCoy)

Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre has asked the school board to look at approving a list of capital priorities to focus on for the next three to five yeas. In a memo to the board, McIntyre recommended five areas the district should focus on for an annual targeted capital improvement plan of about $15 million.

A head start: Value of prekindergarten emphasized (C. Appeal/Kelley)

Scientific evidence gathered by the Memphis-based Urban Child Institute demonstrates that intervention programs targeting the early years of a child’s life are far more effective than later remediation. The findings leave some educators wondering why, in a poor community like Memphis more resources are not pouring into early childhood education.

Florida: Florida to Vote on Privatizing Prisons (Wall Street Journal)

Florida’s Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on a controversial plan to privatize state prison facilities in southern Florida, a move that would create one of the largest private prison operations in the nation. The vote—which both sides say is too close to call—comes as states are weighing the value of privatizing prisons, often one of the costlier items in troubled state budgets.

South Dakota: In South Dakota, plenty of jobs, not enough workers (Stateline)

Job seekers who walk into one of the 700 recruitment centers run by the Manpower company around the United States soon may be asked a question that has nothing to do with their professional qualifications: “How do you feel about moving to South Dakota?” The reason is a partnership that South Dakota’s governor, Dennis Daugaard, is pursuing with the global recruitment firm.

OPINION 

Guest columnist: Legislators endanger Tennessee wildlife resources (Tennessean)

In the most egregiously misguided effort in the recent history of state politics, a couple of House legislators are attempting to literally destroy our priceless wildlife resources for political and commercial gain. In 2011, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s (TWRA) Commission was up for standard reauthorization, but House Government Operations Chairman Jim Cobb refused to hear the bill in his committee.

Times Editorial: Save Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s mission (TFP)

Few things in politics are as exasperating as the arrogant corruption of due legislative process by petty politicians with a no-holds-barred personal vendetta. State Rep. Jim Cobb’s current mission to single-handedly destroy the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is a case in point. Despite the requests of House Speaker Beth Harwell and other Republican leaders, the Spring City Republican, chairman of the House government operations committee, has refused to schedule a promised hearing on the reauthorization of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Times Editorial: Let the debates begin in Tennessee’s 3rd district (TFP)

The August 2 primary elections are a little over 24 weeks away, but it’s pretty safe to say even at this remove that one race likely to draw a lot of attention will pit Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who currently holds Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District seat, against at least four challengers. That race already is in high gear. Weston Wamp prompted much of the early interest.

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