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April 3 TN News Digest

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

Haslam Budget Amendment Reduces Food Tax (TNReport)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today rolled out his proposal to revise the FY 2012-2013 budget to reflect new estimates on increased state revenues. The supplemental appropriations amendment to SB 3768/HB 3835 will include funding that was not part of the budget the governor presented in January, which was based on earlier revenue projections. “It is state government’s job to provide services that citizens can’t get on their own,” Haslam said.

Food tax cut, jail funding added to Haslam budget (Associated Press/Schelzig)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday that his budget amendment includes funding for a more rapid decrease in food tax cut and extra money for local jails. Haslam also announced that weekend negotiations resulted in an agreement from the Tennessee State Employees Association to support the governor’s plan to overhaul state civil service rules. “For us this was significant because we think it is the most critical thing we can do as a state,” Haslam said.

Food Tax to Drop Further in Haslam Budget (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Governor Bill Haslam says he’s going to ask that the sales tax on food be cut by slightly more than he proposed earlier this year. The administration has discovered many cash registers can only be set in quarter-percent increments. The sales tax on food is at 5.5 percent right now. The original plan called for 5.3 percent next year. But now Haslam says it will be easier on retailers to cut the tax to 5.25. “Quite frankly, we just felt like if we were going to move it, we might as well do more now rather than later.”

Haslam Revises Budget Plan (TNReport)

Gov. Bill Haslam’s state government spending plan that he’s offering to the Tennessee Legislature now calls for a slight enhancement to the small food-tax cut he proposed initially, and opts to have taxpayers continue funding certain programs his administration had originally slated for cuts. The proposal would cut the food tax by an extra nickel per $100 in groceries mainly because it’s easier for retailers to calculate on most cash registers, the governor said Monday. The state tax on non-restaurant food is now 5.5 percent.

Haslam reveals 2012-13 budget amendment (Nashville Business Journal)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled his amendment today to his original $30 billion 2012-13 state budget, reflecting new estimates based on higher-than-expected tax collections. “Our budget proposal earlier this year reflected a thoughtful and strategic process to allocate taxpayer dollars to serve Tennesseans in the most customer-focused, efficient and effective way possible,” Haslam said in a news release.

Haslam budget trims grocery tax, aids Tennessee jails (Times Free-Press/Sher)

Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday he is including a deeper cut in the state sales tax on groceries as part of an administration amendment to his proposed $30.2 billion spending plan for 2012-13. The move is just one of at least $25 million worth of changes the Republican governor is making. Others include boosting the state’s daily payments to local jails for housing state felons from $35 to $37 per prisoner per day at a cost of $4 million annually. He also is restoring $3 million in funding to family resource centers, including one operated by Hamilton County Schools.

Haslam rolls out amendment to 2012-13 state budget (WRCB-TV Chattanooga)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday rolled out his proposal to revise the FY 2012-2013 budget to reflect new estimates on increased state revenues. The supplemental appropriations amendment to SB 3768/HB 3835 will include funding that was not part of the budget the governor presented in January, which was based on earlier revenue projections. “It is state government’s job to provide services that citizens can’t get on their own,” Haslam said.

Budget changes save local agency (Mountain Press)

A local community service agency seemed close to being off the chopping block that threatened to shutter it after Gov. Bill Haslam made some amendments Monday to his proposed budget. The original financial plan would have given the ax to all funding for the 104 family resource centers across the state, including the one right here in Sevier County. That could have meant a loss of vital services like counseling for at-risk youth and assistance for new parents, but that crisis seems averted by changes Haslam suggested Monday.

Haslam, state workers association reach deal on layoffs policy (Tennessean/Cass)

Compromise lets seniority factor in to layoff decisions Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration and the state employees association have reached a compromise on the TEAM Act, Haslam’s proposed rewrite of the state’s civil service rules, the governor said Monday. Haslam also unveiled a proposed budget amendment that, among other things, would reduce the sales tax on food beyond what he originally recommended and provide $1 million for land acquisition and maintenance at Radnor Lake State Natural Area in Nashville.

Haslam: Compromise reached on civil service reform (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday a compromise with the Tennessee State Employees Association on civil service reform legislation and also said he plans to add about $28 million in spending to his proposed state budget for the coming year. The governor’s proposed amendment to the state budget calls for increasing fees paid to local governments for housing prisoners in county jails, in part to reduce complaints about an administration bill to impose longer sentences for repeat domestic violence offenders.

Haslam wants planning commission to finish before district decisions (CA/Locker)

Gov. Bill Haslam said today he wants the special commission planning the merger of Memphis and Shelby County schools to be able to complete its work before Shelby’s suburbs decide whether to create their own municipal school systems. But the governor stopped far short of saying he might veto a bill that would pave the way for the suburbs to hold referendums this year on whether to create new school districts. The delay of referendums that had been set for May 10 may work out the timetable for new districts more to the governor’s preference.

Haslam Measure on Selecting Judges Awaiting Action (Associated Press/Schelzig)

When the top three Republicans in the Statehouse coalesced behind a plan to cement Tennessee’s current selection process for Supreme Court justices into the state constitution, there seemed to be a smooth path ahead for getting the measure before voters in 2014. Two months later, their proposal has made little progress as some Republican lawmakers have embraced a rival proposal, while others want to allow contested elections to take place. A proposal is advancing in the Legislature to impose a federal-style system of having the governor make nominations to the high court’s bench, and then giving lawmakers the power to confirm or reject them.

Governor says may sign evolution bill (Associated Press)

Gov. Bill Haslam says he may sign a proposal that critics deride as the “monkey bill” for once again attacking evolution. The measure, which would protect teachers who allow students to criticize scientific theories like evolution, is headed to the Republican governor after passing the Senate last month and the House last year. When asked by a reporter on Monday if he’s leaning toward signing the measure, Haslam said “probably so.”

Haslam says he’ll ‘probably’ sign a bill on scientific subjects (TFP/Sher)

Gov. Bill Haslam said today he “probably” will sign a controversial bill that protects teachers when they address “scientific subjects that may cause debate and disputation” including evolution and global warming. “Nothing in the curriculum of the state of Tennessee will change and the scientific standards won’t change,” Haslam said of the bill, which has passed the House and Senate but has yet to come to the governor’s desk. “If you read through that, that part is really clear.”

State Hands Out $160K in Job-Training Grants (TNReport)

Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis have awarded $159,215 in job training grants to nine companies across the state. Incumbent Worker Training grants assist employers with upgrading skills and avoiding layoffs for their employees. “If Tennessee is going to become the number one location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, then we must offer a well-trained workforce to employers,” said Governor Haslam.

Tennessee teachers evaluate evaluation in session run by SCORE (CA/Roberts)

Present good, bad of new rating system Teachers like that their new evaluations make them focus more and concentrate on making sure learning is happening, but they and the principals who supervise them have some real concerns about how trustworthy much of the data is and how they can be sure the process is fair. The positives and negatives came out Monday in a two-hour session run by SCORE, the education advocacy group Gov. Bill Haslam appointed in December to look at the model and recommend improvements.

Too Many Teacher Evaluations? (WPTY-TV Memphis)

Some local educators say the new teacher evaluation system needs changes. Memphis and Shelby county teachers spoke up at a roundtable discussion Monday night. The talks are part of a statewide feedback process prompted by Governor Bill Haslam. Principals, school board members, and community stakeholders took part in the conversation. They talked about the benefits and challenges of the new teacher evaluation models which started this year. Some credited the evaluations for boosting classroom procedures.

Some jobless benefits to end (Commercial Appeal/Bailey)

The improving economy will trigger the end of unemployment benefits next week to more than 10,000 jobless Tennesseans. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development will suspend jobless benefits for those in the extended benefit program. More than 10,000 claimants who are in the last 20 of 99 weeks available will receive their final benefit payment the week of April 12. In Tennessee, the maximum benefit is $275 a week and the average is $235, said Jeff Hentschel, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

TBI investigates police-involved shooting in Kingston Springs (AP)

Police say a Cheatham County man has been shot and killed after firing a gun at police officers. Kristin Helm of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said the agency was called in to investigate the shooting, which occurred in Kingston Springs. Helm said 70-year-old Albert Ray Finch called Cheatham County 911 on Sunday evening, saying he was suicidal. A Kingston Springs police officer and a Cheatham County sheriff’s deputy arrived to find Finch in his front yard with a gun.

THP sergeant continues to improve since violent crash (News-Sentinel/Hickman)

The Tennessee Highway Patrol sergeant critically injured in a fiery crash on Interstate 40 last month continues to make remarkable strides in his recovery, and could leave the hospital as soon as this week, relatives said. Lowell Russell, 39, remains at the University of Tennessee Medical Center today, exactly three weeks since the he was struck by a tractor-trailer while parked in his patrol cruiser along the shoulder of I-40 near Walker Springs Road in the early hours of March 13.

Suggestions may drive safer bypass (Times-Gazette)

A newly released TDOT review of the Shelbyville bypass makes a number of recommendations to make the new highway safer for motorists. The best part about the report is that it won’t cost the city a dime for improvements to State Route 437, but the city manager said the deal is not yet done. The city of Shelbyville received the road safety audit review this week from Steve Allen, director of TDOT’s project planning division.

Tennessee court says collection agents can’t garnish tips (Times Free-Press/Smith)

Here’s a tip: if you owe money in Tennessee, get a job waiting tables. Workers worried about garnished wages because of an unpaid bill may have gained a unique escape clause, thanks to a Tennessee Appeals Court judgment against Erlanger Health System. The ruling could allow a worker to virtually escape wage garnishment if the majority of his pay consists of tips, attorneys say. Ex-wives, hospitals and any other business that depends in part on wage garnishment to collect debts may have to re-think their strategy. “Ultimately, the appeals court said if you are the employer, you do not count tip income for what is a garnishable wage,” said Chris Merkal, an attorney for Shoney’s. “This is new law.” Erlanger wouldn’t comment on the case because of patient privacy laws, but spokeswoman Pat Charles said that in order for the hospital to serve as a safety net for the region, it must be able to collect unpaid bills. “We discount fees based on income levels and work out payment plans with our patients on a regular basis,” Charles said. “When patients do not qualify for free care and do not make payments within a reasonable time, we refer accounts to reputable firms for collection.”

Mega-Millions money for schools (Herald-Courier)

While the world waits to find out who won Friday night’s historic Mega Millions jackpot, state leaders are finding out just how much the mega-excitement will benefit education programs. In Virginia, ticket sales generated about $21.8 million. By law, all of that money goes to Kindergaren through 12th grade public school programs. In Tennessee, Mega-Million ticket sales generated $9.3 million for education.That money will be used for scholarship and grant programs in the volunteer state. Three tickets, sold in Maryland, Kansas and Illinois, matched all six numbers drawn. So far, winners have not officially stepped forward.

Haslam, Ramsey Wary of Guns in Parking Lots Bill (Associated Press)

Gov. Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey are among the prominent Republicans trying to put the brakes on a bill seeking to guarantee employees the right to store their firearms in vehicles parked at work. The bill advanced to the full Senate last week. It would allow people with state-issued handgun carry permits to store their weapons in their cars. The Judiciary Committee rejected efforts to exclude schools and colleges and added a provision to extend the measure to anyone over age 21 with a hunting license. “That’s a little bothersome to us to be honest with you,” Haslam told reporters last week. “The hunting license is of particular concern to us.” The state’s 350,000 handgun carry permit holders must undergo background checks and take safety courses. A hunting license carries no special requirements other than state residency and can be ordered online for a $27 fee. Nearly 700,000 people have hunting licenses, though the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency doesn’t keep track of how many of those are younger than 21. Ramsey said the proposal as currently written goes too far.

Some Republicans Disagreeing With Firearms Bill (WCYB-TV Chattanooga)

Governor Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey are among the prominent Republicans trying to put the brakes on a bill seeking to guarantee employees the right to store their firearms in vehicles parked at work. The bill, which advanced to the full Senate last week, would allow people with state-issued handgun carry permits to store their weapons in their cars while on the job. The judiciary committee rejected efforts to exclude schools and colleges from the bill and added a provision to extended the measure to anyone over the age of 21 with a hunting license. Ramsey says he thinks the measure goes too far. A House committee is scheduled to vote on its version of the bill.

Guns in parking lots bill draws concerns over constitutional rights (Herald-Courier)

A bill that would allow employees to keep guns in cars in all parking lots in the state is drawing much criticism, with at least two state leaders trying to halt the bill before it becomes law. Governor Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey oppose the bill that would allow employees to with carry permits to keep their guns in their cars while working. Haslam has reportedly called the bill ‘worrisome’. Locally, people on both sides of the bill say their constitutional rights are at stake. “It puts two constitutional rights head to head 2nd amendment rights vs. 4th amendment rights,” says Chief of ETSU Public Safety Jack Cotrel. “And I think that is a huge part of the problem here.” Cotrel opposes allowing guns on campus. “Will it make our campus safer? I don’t think so,” says Cotrel of the bill. “It goes against our mission and that’s to provide a safe environment for learning for all of our campuses acrossTennessee.” Cotrel believes if guns were allowed in all parking lots, it would violate a property owner’s constitutional rights. “It takes away this institution’s right to say ‘No, you will not bring a weapon on our campus’,” explains the chief. “It takes away the right of a private business owner to say ‘No, you will not bring a fire arm on my property’.”

Saggy pants bill headed to governor (Associated Press/Johnson)

Supporters of a proposal that would prohibit students from dressing in an “indecent manner” at school say they would like to revisit the measure should it become law and make it stricter. The measure was sent to the governor on Monday after it passed the Senate 29-0 and the House 81-9. The legislation seeks to prohibit students from exposing “underwear or body parts in an indecent manner that disrupts the learning environment.” A stricter version of the proposal failed to pass the Legislature three years ago. That measure targeted individuals who wear pants below the waistline and imposed a fine of up to $250 and 160 hours of community service. Under the current proposal, school districts would decide a less severe punishment. But Democratic Rep. Joe Towns of Memphis, the sponsor of the current proposal and the one three years ago, said he may try to put more teeth in the bill if it becomes law. “We can look at it and see where the possibilities are to go to another level,” he said after the vote. “I would love to, because it’s out of control. There’s a lot of interest in the community about it.”

Municipal school district bills pass in House, Senate (Commercial Appeal/Locker)

A bill to lift the statewide ban on new municipal school districts Jan. 1 passed the state Senate on Monday night and is set for House Education Committee review today. A separate bill that Sen. Mark Norris wants to amend to allow suburban referendums this year on new municipal school districts won House approval — but without a referendum amendment. That puts a new wrinkle in the push for school referendums in the Memphis suburbs. The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Richard Montgomery, said he doesn’t plan on using the bill for any purpose other than the way it passed the House 90-4: to require local school boards to develop and implement annual evaluation plans for local school directors. Norris, R-Collierville, amended the Senate version of Montgomery’s bill last week in committee to add a process for municipalities’ governing boards to call for referendums on establishing new school districts and, if voters approve, to hold elections to choose the new municipal school board members later this year. The Senate is likely to vote on its version this week. But Montgomery, R-Sevierville, told The Commercial Appeal after the House adjourned Monday night that no one has asked him to add the referendum amendment to the House version of the bill.

New City School Systems Could Be Born under Proposed State Law (WPLN-Radio)

A Shelby County fight over who should run the schools boiled over into the rest of the state last night. A proposal that passed in the state senate would allow the creation of new city schools. New city school systems have been barred by state law since 1998, but the merger of the Memphis and Shelby County school systems revived the issue. Five of the county’s six suburban cities have been lobbying to set up their own, city-run systems, to avoid being in the merged district. Senator Mark Norris says his bill would let them do that – though it’s written to cover the whole state. “What this does really has less to do with Shelby County, and more with the rest of the state in sort of eradicating that vestige of a time past, when these impediments were in place.” Norris got the bill through the Senate 19 to 13, over objections of Democrats who foresaw rich cities cutting themselves loose from poorer surrounding county citizens.

Senate OKs Automatic High School Teaching Ticket for College Instructors (WPLN)

The State Senate Monday night passed a bill that would allow any college instructor to receive a license to teach his subject in high schools with no additional educational training. Sen. Jim Summerville, a Dickson Republican, is the sponsor and an adjunct instructor himself, though he says he wouldn’t take advantage of the automatic teaching license. Under his bill, a former college professor would be presumed to be able to teach on the basis of knowing his subject. An amendment would require an instructor to be in good standing with the college. “But the bigger question is, should we do this, period.” Senator Andy Berke, a Chattanooga Democrat, asked if the proposed law sends a mixed message. He says trained teachers were key to the state winning half a billion dollars in the federal “Race to the Top” program. “And one of the things that we talked about was the professionalism of teaching, and raising the bar, and raising standards.” The House version of the bill is scheduled to be taken up in a committee Wednesday.

TSEA Signs Off on New Civil Service Overhaul (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

The Tennessee State Employees Association has agreed to support Governor Bill Haslam’s overhaul to civil service rules. TSEA came to an agreement with the administration over the weekend. State employees had warned that basing layoff decisions on job performance could lead to cronyism. But there are at least two changes that helped win the support of TSEA. Executive director Robert O’Connell says the first is that the state is going to gather input from his organization on how to measure job performance. “Once we do that, we don’t have a problem with performance being part of decisions that are being made.” The second is that seniority will still be considered as part of layoff decisions. It just won’t be the first consideration, as it is now. Governor Haslam called TSEA’s support “significant.” At one point, the association had walked away from discussions, saying the administration wasn’t listening to its concerns.

Former Vanderbilt chancellor’s ex-wife Gee turns marijuana advocate (TN/Sisk)

For six months, Constance Gee lived under a cloud of depression and fear of the next attack. It was simply a matter of pressure and time, each building up until all of her perceptions became a jumble and she went crashing to the floor. “Do you know what a cubist painting looks like, you’re seeing several angles at once?” she said. “Everything kind of shifts.” Gee, the ex-wife of former Vanderbilt University Chancellor Gordon Gee, was prescribed a cabinet’s worth of medications as she tried to fight the effects of Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear condition that causes severe vertigo and hearing loss. But even those left her laid up in bed for days in a lethargic fog. Finally, a visiting friend brought her a small amount of marijuana. Two hits and the symptoms seemed to recede. “Within seconds, less than a minute, the nausea would be gone,” Gee recalled. “I still had the Meniere’s. But I could buy some time.”

Limo owners want to stop enforcement of $45-per-trip minimum fare (TN/Gang)

A group of budget limousine and sedan service companies urged a federal judge Monday to temporarily bar Metro government from enforcing a $45-per-trip minimum fare. The companies sought the preliminary injunction until the court can decide the merits of a lawsuit calling Nashville’s new limo regulations anti-competitive and unconstitutional. If successful, the lawsuit could affect how residents without access to their own cars, tourists and others travel around the region. Metro Livery, one of the three companies that is challenging the fare, was cited in January for not charging the minimum rate — the first under the new regulations. Until 2010, limousines and sedan companies were largely unregulated in Nashville. The Metro Transportation Licensing Commission came up with a set of rules mandating minimum insurance levels, licensing standards and inspection requirements. The regulations, approved in June 2010, also mandated that all limos and sedan companies charge a minimum fee of $45 per trip and dispatch vehicles only from a central headquarters.

Bradley County supports Duracell plant incentives (Times Free-Press/Leach)

Bradley County commissioners have agreed to offer financial incentives to help Procter & Gamble Duracell make a $36 million reinvestment within the community that will create 60 new jobs. On Monday night, Bradley County commissioners voted 13-0 to authorize a tax abatement request made by P&G Duracell to assist the company with its expansion plans at its Cleveland facilities. Although the issue did not generate any discussion among commissioners during the meeting, Doug Berry, vice president of economic development for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, praised the company’s plans and their expected impact on the community afterward. Last week, officials announced that the company’s Cleveland production facility would be P&G Duracell’s only plant that manufactures its C and D batteries. The planned expansion of Cleveland operations are intended to help the company fulfill sales of the batteries worldwide. The Cleveland plant is one of only three P&G Duracell production facilities in the United States.

Health rankings criteria widened in Tennessee, Georgia (Times Free-Press/Martin)

Fast-food outlets make up about half the restaurants in Tennessee and Georgia — and local counties such as Bradley, Catoosa, Murray and Whitfield have even higher percentages, according to a health ranking released today. Coupled with the fact that 30 percent of Tennesseans and 24 percent of Georgians 20 and older report they have no leisure time physical activity, the latest health reports don’t look good for the two states. According to the rankings, about one-third of the adults in the Chattanooga area are obese. This was the first year the county health rankings, compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, added physical inactivity, access to health foods and the percentage of fast-food restaurants. This is the third year the rankings have been released. “The big message is: Where we live matters,” said Karen Odegaard, a researcher with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. “We look at the rankings as a call to action, to be a starting point for communities to look at what they can do to make their communities a healthier place to live.”

Chatt. city planners don’t back massive Hixson development project (TFP/O’Neil)

City planners recommend blocking a development that would level a Hixson hillside to create commercial space twice the size of Northgate Mall just miles down the road. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency cited extreme traffic and environmental problems as reasons to oppose the project, according to a report released Monday. Developers want to put the 190-acre development near Highways 153 and U.S. 27, which both are projected to reach or exceed traffic capacity within the next three years. There are no scheduled improvements to the roads until 2025. The addition of 148 acres of commercial development and a 42-acre, 280-unit apartment complex would exacerbate that problem, the report states. “The Regional Planning Agency staff thinks it is reasonable for the site to be developed more intensely, but at a much different scale and with a different arrangement of uses to reflect the site conditions,” the report states. Hannah Bunch, who works at Academy Sports in a shopping center about a mile south of the proposed development site, said traffic’s not too bad when she travels up Highway 153 to work each day, so long as she’s not scheduled to work near morning or evening rush hours.

Blackburn notes concerns about higher ed funding at Austin Peay (Leaf Chronicle)

An expanded Medicaid and other rising health care costs will impact Tennessee financially, but how those escalating expenses will shortchange state allocations for higher education concerns U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood. “What we learned from TennCare is that every dollar went to health care, and higher education lost out,” Blackburn said during a visit April 2 at Austin Peay State University. “We are incredibly concerned about what health care on a federal level is going to do to states and colleges and universities.” Blackburn, who represents the 7th Congressional District of Tennessee soon to include APSU, met with APSU President Tim Hall and the President’s Circle of Advisers at the Pace Alumni Center at Emerald Hill. She toured the campus prior to her talk. Blackburn also spoke about recent restrictions on veterans programs, especially with health care funding. She said a veterans town hall meeting will be April 13, with more details coming from her office at a later date.

Weston Wamp raises $175,000 in first quarter (Times Free-Press/Carroll)

Weston Wamp said he raised $175,133 in the year’s first political fundraising quarter, potentially narrowing the vast financial distance between him and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann. The 25-year-old Republican son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp announced his three-month haul two weeks before the government’s deadline for submitting a campaign finance disclosure in the 3rd Congressional District race. But an adviser for Fleischmann, the elder Wamp’s successor and a first-term Republican, said the congressman raised about $200,000 between Jan. 1 and March 31 and counted at least $750,000 after first-quarter expenses. Wamp’s after-expenses total was $436,080, his aides said. Wamp likely gained little, if any, ground since the previous fundraising quarter, which ended Dec. 31. Back then, Wamp finished $332,000 behind Fleischmann after expenses. The new spread is likely to be about the same. Meanwhile, Fleischmann’s other well-known Republican challenger, Mayfield Dairy President Scottie Mayfield, declined to release his fundraising totals early. “At this point we have no plans to release those figures,” campaign manager Bo Patten wrote in an email. Fleischmann aides said they were still counting checks that came in Friday and Saturday.

Tenn. GOP confirms Campfield as Gingrich delegate (Associated Press)

State Sen. Stacey Campfield has been confirmed as a delegate for Newt Gingrich at the Republican National Convention, despite the presidential candidate’s call for having him replaced. WATE-TV reports (http://bit.ly/HDwepz ) that party’s executive committee over the weekend confirmed the slate of delegates won in Tennessee’s March 6 primary. That included Campfield, a Knoxville Republican who was elected to represent Gingrich despite abandoning the former speaker of the House in favor for former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in the final days of the campaign.

A Bill of Rights for State Workers? (Stateline)

It may not seem as though a “Public Employees’ Bill of Rights” is an idea whose time has come in California, where furloughs, pension reform and other cost-cutting measures have been the typical topics of debate during the past few years. But for the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, the very real, ongoing threat of major changes to the state’s relationship with its employee is just proof that the legislation is needed. Dickinson, whose Sacramento district includes more public employees than any other, believes that conditions for state employees have generally improved under Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s administration.

Loudon offers Yale Lock 10-year tax break (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Willett)

County offers 10-year, 100% tax break Loudon County will offer a 10-year tax incentive package to encourage the Yale Lock and Hardware Co. to keep hundreds of jobs in Lenoir City. “We’re trying to do everything we can,” said County Mayor Estelle Herron. The proposed plan would give Yale a 100 percent city and county property tax break for 10 years. The tax break would be worth over $1 million for the 10-year period. County Commission voted to accept the plan Monday. In a special called meeting earlier in the day, the Lenoir City Council voted unanimously to support the incentive package.

GM, UAW prepare for workers’ return (Columbia Daily Herald)

Thirty-six union workers who are returning to General Motors Spring Hill Manufacturing to staff the new flexible plant operations began orientation Monday, according to an email to United Auto Workers Local 1853 members by Chairman Mike Herron. Of these members, 28 previously worked as UAW Team Leaders when the Chevrolet Traverse completed its build out in November 2009, when the plant was idled. Many returning members are displaced workers who went to other GM plants while waiting for the Spring Hill facility to come back online, according to the statement.

School board tackles budget proposal one last time before vote (N-S/McCoy)

Knox County school board members asked deeper questions about the nine investments identified in the superintendent’s proposed budget that would add $35 million to the district’s budget over the next five years — especially in the areas of instructional time for students, moving to full-day kindergarten, technology and teacher performance pay. “It is important to be as specific as we can, where we can,” said school board member Cindy Buttry, who represents the 3rd District. “If this is approved, we would need that sooner rather than later to have as much transparency for folks.”

Knoxville plant not hit by Dow Chemical layoffs (Associated Press)

The Dow Chemical Co. plans to lay off about 900 people in response to weak demand for its products in Europe. The Knoxville plant at 730 Dale Ave. near downtown is not part of the company’s cost-cutting move. The Midland, Mich., chemical manufacturer said Monday that the positions will be cut as part of a plan to trim costs by about $250 million each year. The company also will shut down factories in Illinois, Portugal, Hungary, and Brazil, and it will idle a plant in The Netherlands.

Maryland: Counties bristle as Assembly proposals seek to expand state power (BS)

Ethics, sprinklers and education among issues for which Annapolis wants more say As the General Assembly session rushes to a close, many conservative lawmakers and local officials are battling to halt a series of bills, large and small, that they say would shift decision-making power from counties to the red brick buildings of Annapolis. One measure would force counties to require sprinkler systems in all new housing. Another would make local governments levy a new fee on their citizens. Even the ethics forms of county officials would be controlled by the state under proposed legislation.

OPINION

Editorial: Lawmakers again show disregard for scenic vistas (News-Sentinel)

After five consecutive years, it really is a pity the Tennessee Legislature can’t pass a bill protecting the state’s wonderful scenic mountains from the ravages of mountaintop-removal mining for coal. The state Senate tried to skirt any lengthy discussion about the topic by postponing a floor vote until this week. Then, last week, a House subcommittee killed the bill for the current year, sending the issue to a summer study group — also known as legislative Siberia.

Guest columnist: Inheritance tax demonstrates American values (Tennessean)

Tennessee’s inheritance tax encourages core American values: hard work, ingenuity and persistence bring success, not the accident of one’s birth into wealth. No other tax is as effective at improving opportunities for talented Tennesseans and preventing us from slipping further into a polarized society with a small group of owners and a large group of service workers. Inheritance tax only applies to large fortunes. When someone dies, his or her assets (the “estate”) are distributed to heirs.

Guest columnist: Gun bill means liability, safety risk for businesses (Tennessean)

Nashville has been named “America’s Friendliest City,” based on our hospitality toward visitors and newcomers. At Hutton Hotel, we know that a welcoming environment both inside and outside our hotel walls is key to building a strong customer base. But to maintain our reputation as a global city that attracts visitors, residents and businesses, we must also make sure our state policies are consistent with that identity.

Editorial: Water/snow park deal mainly benefits taxpayers (Tennessean)

Critics of the proposed property tax break for a water and snow park near Gaylord Opryland should take a closer look at the plan and what it could do for the city of Nashville. The 1,900 jobs that will be created for park construction, and the 1,800 park and related jobs that will be created by the third year of operation, might be enough to offset the $5.4 million over 12 years that is represented by the 60 percent tax abatement that Metro proposed to give the Gaylord Entertainment Co. and Dollywood Co. partnership on a $50 million park development.

Editorial: State should approve charter school application (Jackson Sun)

Officials from the Tennessee Department of Education are in town today to conduct an appeal hearing on the proposed Connections Preparatory School charter school application. The application twice has been denied by the Jackson-Madison County Board of Education. We believe the charter school should be approved by the state. The group of educators and community leaders who are proposing the school have worked for three years on the project, and they have earned the chance to show what they can do.

Sam Stockard: Ten Commandments still commanding attention (DNJ)

Exodus tells us God issued the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai amid lightning, thunder and trumpeting when Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. The establishment of this covenant was a defining point in world history. But while some see the Ten Commandments as a cornerstone of American law and a Christian nation, others believe government has no business challenging First Amendment principles designed to keep government from religious entanglement.

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