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May 14 TN News Digest

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

Clarksville Soldier Killed Serving In Operation Enduring Freedom (WNWS-Radio)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder regretfully announce the loss of Tennessee soldier, Sergeant Jacob Michael Schwallie of Clarksville. Schwallie and two other paratroopers were fatally injured when their military vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb on May 7, in Ghanzi Province, Afghanistan. Sergeant Schwallie was serving with C Troop, 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Next Class of Teachers Enters Changing Profession (Stateline)

Every 15 minutes, the buzzer sounds at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena. But there’s no basketball game. The circular concourse outside the court is filled with 300 prospective teachers and 54 representatives of school districts and private educational companies looking to hire them. It’s three days before graduation and students at Indiana’s largest-teacher producing college have 15 minutes to state their case to prospective employers before the buzzer sounds again and their time is up.

Businesses urged to prepare for new food tax rate (Associated Press)

State officials are encouraging businesses that sell food to begin preparing for a reduced rate of sales and use tax. Effective July 1, the state sales and use tax rate on sales of food and food ingredients will be cut to 5.25 percent from 5.5 percent. Local sales and use tax rates may be added. According to the Tennessee Department of Revenue, changes to cash registers and accounting systems should be completed by July 1. However, businesses must continue to collect and remit the existing rate through June 30.

TN boosts film incentives (Tennessean/Marsteller)

Industry insiders say package still falls short of peers’ It has a good opening sequence and the potential to become a sleeper hit, but certainly not the makings of a summer blockbuster. That’s the Middle Tennessee film industry’s initial review of the state’s latest effort to attract more movie projects to Tennessee. Several in the industry say it should boost development of small, low-budget or independent projects though it likely won’t help the state compete for star-studded productions right away.

West TN counties to form anti-drug coalitions serving teens (Associated Press)

Officials in three West Tennessee counties are working to create coalitions to fight drug use among teens. The state Department of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services awarded grants to Dyer, Lauderdale and Tipton counties that will allow them to form the panels. Professional Care Services Director of Drug Abuse Treatment Services Lisa Kent told the Dyersburg State Gazette that similar coalitions have been in East Tennessee for years, but they are new to West Tennessee.

Sexual, religious biases add fuel to hate crimes (Tennessean/Haas)

Crimes based on religion and sexual orientation increase Kileigh Rediker likes to play dress up and loves Hello Kitty. She’s 9 but identifies herself as the proud mother of Cena — her Cabbage Patch baby. She doesn’t know someone took the time to call and leave a vile message on her mother’s telephone last year. The call was replete with multiple racial slurs to describe the biracial, special-needs child. “If they knew my little girl, they would fall in love with her.

No date announced for State Route 126 hearing (Times-News)

Nearly two months have passed since the Tennessee Department of Transportation canceled a public hearing on potential improvements to State Route 126, but no new date has been announced for the hearing. In answer to an inquiry from the Times-News last week, a TDOT spokesman said “it is a meeting that all parties want to have,” but no other information was available.

Tennessee among states cracking down on strangulation attempts (AP/Tucker)

By the time the late-night argument ended, Jacqi Galles had been hoisted off the ground in a tight stranglehold and choked so vigorously that she says she nearly passed out. She fled her home and called the police on her then-boyfriend, who was charged with a misdemeanor and spared a prison sentence after pleading guilty. Moved by that case and others like it, South Dakota this year joined a growing list of states that have made non-fatal choking a felony crime, which is more serious and carries a stiffer penalty.

With session wrapped, legislators turn focus to primary, election battles (CP/Hale)

The noise is mostly gone now from the legislative halls after the closing gavel dropped on Tennessee’s 107th General Assembly earlier this month. But the state political lull won’t last long. Before general election races start in earnest, many legislators face primary challenges in newly drawn districts. While many Republicans across the state will face opposition from their political right, Republican-led redistricting has resulted in four Democratic primaries in which incumbents face each other.

Middle Tennessee candidates balance push for local, state offices (TN/Cass)

Four want to juggle council, House jobs One part-time legislative job — sometimes requiring full-time attention to the concerns and complaints of the masses and the push and pull of politics — would be enough for most people. But four Metro councilmen are looking to add a second public service gig while wrestling with a proposed tax increase, one of the biggest votes they’re likely to cast on the council floor.

Improvements at Tennessee Capitol include security upgrade (C. Appeal/Locker)

A century and a half ago, the new Tennessee State Capitol was seized, fortified and transformed into Fortress Andrew Johnson by the Union Army during its Civil War occupation of Nashville. Now — despite state constitutional guarantees that the “doors” of the legislature “shall be kept open” — the Capitol is becoming increasingly fortress-like again as a result of security measures already made and new ones under way.

NAACP, ministers work to improve black vote in Chattanooga (TFP/Putman)

If trends in voter apathy and population changes continue, there may be no black elected members of the City Council by the 2020 census, said NAACP Vice President Joe Rowe. The number of blacks on the City Council has halved from 2000, he said — there were four black council members in that year, and only two today. State law requires that district lines be drawn to ensure black representation, he said, but that doesn’t matter if blacks don’t vote. Look at the 2009 council election, he said.

Hamilton County Drug Court workers have seen both sides (TFP/South)

When two local drug court workers applaud new program graduates today, they know personally what it took for the men and women to make it through their addictions. The paths that led John Cooper and Crystal Couch to Hamilton County Drug Court began in seemingly different worlds, but both wound through years of devastating drug abuse, denial and then help from the very court where each now works. Cooper, 35, lived in foster and group homes from age 14 until he became an adult.

Student loan default rates rise in Chattanooga and across the country (TFP/Trevizo)

Default rates on student loans have risen in Chattanooga and across the country, reaching their highest levels in at least three years. Experts say the trend is a recession-fed turnabout following some of the lowest years for defaults since the 1990s. Department of Education data from 2011 shows that the default rate for Chattanooga State Community College rose over 2010 from 10.9 percent to 17.3 percent.

Census Bureau questionnaires criticized by Rep. Duncan as intrusive (TN/Collins)

Duncan wants to end what he views as intrusive Census Bureau questionnaires It’s supposed to give us a statistical snapshot of America. But for U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., the detailed questionnaire the U.S. Census Bureau sends out to thousands of households every month is a little too Orwellian. It’s too intrusive, he said, and poses too many questions that are none of the government’s business. “It seems to me that is Big Brother type of government,” the Knoxville Republican said.

GM reported to be hiring team leaders at plant (Associated Press)

A union official says about 60 team leaders will be hired in about two weeks for the General Motors plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. Mike Herron, United Auto Workers 1853 bargaining chairman, told Maury County commissioners the workers will be involved in the production of the Chevrolet Equinox. According to The Daily Herald (http://bit.ly/JfQYX3 ), there also will be numerous jobs in the future for local citizens to fill. Herron said he had no estimate of the number.

The Pyramid plan takes shape (Commercial Appeal/Maki)

Plans to transform The Pyramid into a Bass Pro Shops super store now include a three-story hotel encircling the arena floor. As city leaders and Bass Pro officials prepare for a June groundbreaking, decisions about renovating the arena — ephemeral and always evolving until now — are taking firm shape. Inside The Pyramid, blue and orange chalk lines on the concrete floor outline places where massive water features will go, while shells of a general store and an elevator to the observation deck have been erected with wood and tape.

Student transfer option at risk in Hamilton County (Times Free-Press/Hardy)

Options for students to leave their zoned schools in search of a better education could narrow as the Hamilton County Board of Education considers phasing out a decade-old school transfer program. After Tennessee received a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law in February, school systems no longer must provide transportation for students from schools that didn’t meet federal benchmarks to better-performing ones.

California: Brown Says More Cuts Needed in California (Wall Street Journal)

California Gov. Jerry Brown said the state’s projected budget deficit widened to $16 billion from about $9 billion, and he warned that the state will need deeper cuts to services such as education if voters don’t pass a tax-increase measure he is championing. The Democratic governor on Monday is set to release his revised 2012-13 budget to lawmakers in the state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature. While he didn’t outline details of his new budget plan in a brief YouTube address, Mr. Brown said the state would have to cut funding to schools and public-safety agencies already hit with steep budget cuts in recent years unless voters pass his ballot proposal in November.

 

OPINION

 

Editorial: Salute to foster parents May is Foster Care Month (Mountain Press)

More than 6,500 children are in foster care in Tennessee now. That doesn’t mean they are orphans. It means that for some reason they have been removed from their homes and placed in state custody at least until things improve at home. That is the goal: Get kids back with their families. Gov. Bill Haslam has proclaimed May as Foster Care Month, recognizing foster parents and encouraging others to takes steps to serve children in the year ahead.

Editorial: Look beyond who’s in charge (Commercial Appeal)

Bigger issue than school security: Programs to keep students out of Juvenile Court shouldn’t get lost in school security tiff. The disagreement over who will be in charge of security for a merged Memphis and Shelby County school system eventually will be settled. What shouldn’t get lost in that negotiation are the efforts under way to keep students out of the Juvenile Court system for minor offenses.

Editorial: ‘Let’s Move’ renews emphasis on fighting obesity (News-Sentinel)

“Easy living is sapping the strength and vitality of our children. One-third of them of school age can’t pass minimum physical achievement tests.” Lest we assume the concern about childhood obesity and being overweight is something altogether new, the above quote was in a public service advertisement by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness from at least 50 years ago. Fast-forward five decades, and Americans have the same concerns about childhood obesity and being overweight.

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