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May 26 TN News Digest

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

Tennessee has 44 new state troopers (Associated Press)

Tennessee now has 44 new state troopers. They graduated Friday after 18 weeks of law enforcement instruction. More than 890 hours of classroom training included criminal and constitutional law, patrol procedures, professional ethical conduct, crash investigation and firearms. The new graduates now advance to a maximum 12 weeks of field training. Ryan Quinn, assigned to Rutherford County, was named top cadet for his leadership, work ethic and academics.

Tennessee Highway Patrol graduates 44 new troopers (WRCB-TV Chattanooga)

Governor Bill Haslam joined the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security in welcoming 44 State Troopers to the Highway Patrol on Friday morning. Trooper Cadet Class 512 took their oath of office in a graduation ceremony at Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Old Hickory. Members of Cadet Class 512 have spent the past 18 weeks undergoing extensive law enforcement instruction at the department’s Training Center.

44 New THP Troopers Graduate From Cadet Class (WTVF-TV Nashville)

There are 44 more state troopers keeping Tennessee roads safe after a graduation ceremony for the latest cadet class. The Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Cadet Class 512 was in top form Friday. After 18 weeks, nearly 900 hours of training, and a grueling physical training regiment, they’re now prepared to wear the badge. The graduation was held at the Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Old Hickory. Governor Bill Haslam attended the ceremony and expressed his gratitude and thanks for the new troopers’ service.

Governor Gearing Up to Help Favored GOP Candidates (TN Report)

Besides being a time to remember fallen soldiers, reopen swimming pools and enjoy a long weekend, Memorial Day also represents the unofficial start of campaign season. Gov. Bill Haslam says he’ll lend some of this clout this year to Republican lawmakers in legislative races who have helped advance his agenda. “Obviously I’ll be a lot more active this fall in Republican races. I’ll also be a lot more active for folks that have worked really hard for us,” Haslam told reporters after a Memorial Day ceremony on Capitol Hill.

Governor signs bill to help unemployed (WDXE-Radio Lawrenceburg)

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a proposal to help Tennesseans get off unemployment and find a job. The legislation sponsored by Democratic Sen. Andy Berke of Chattanooga and Democratic House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley is called the “Tennessee Works Act.” It unanimously passed the Senate 33-0 and 91-0 in the House. The bill creates a pilot program to provide employers with grants to pay for training expenses for recently laid-off workers or workers whose jobs have gone overseas.

Aid-Claims Fraud by Illegal Immigrants a Focus of Gov’t Crackdown (TN Report)

A measure to crack down on illegal immigrants seeking to claim public benefits in Tennessee was signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam earlier this week. House Bill 1379, sponsored by Representative Joe Carr (R—Lascassas), requires each Tennessee department and State agency to verify the lawful presence in the U.S. of each person 18 years of age and older who applies for state, local, or federal public benefits.

State tries to halt prescription drug abuse (Times Gazette)

The fastest-growing drug problem in Tennessee doesn’t involve marijuana or crystal meth. The fastest-growing drug problem in Tennessee involves a prescription pad. A new report to the state legislature shows that nearly 18 million prescriptions for controlled substances like OxyContin and hydrocodone were dispensed in Tennessee last year — a 23 percent increase from the previous year. Major problem Tennessee has some of the highest prescription drug abuse rates in the country.

Crissy Haslam to serve as a Scholastic “Reading Ambassador” (Clarksville Online)

Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam visited Taylor Stratton Elementary in Madison today as part of Scholastic’s 6th Annual Summer Reading Challenge. The Scholastic Summer Challenge is a free program designed to promote the importance and fun of reading during the summer to combat the “summer slide.” Haslam joined 47 other U.S. Governors’ Spouses, plus the Governors of Illinois, Vermont, and Arizona as a “Reading Ambassador” for the program.

Jobless rate lower compared to 2011 (Times Gazette)

Bedford County’s jobless rate fell in April to 8.4 percent, nearly two percentage points lower than this time last year. According to preliminary numbers from the Department of Labor & Workforce Development, the county had a labor force of 21,660, with 19,850 working and an estimated 1,820 without a job. The county’s unemployment rate fell 0.7 percent from the revised rate reported for March, and is 1.9 percent lower than the 10.3 percent jobless rate reported in April 2011.

TN boating officers beef up safety patrols (Tennessean/Haas)

Terry Segars would have been out this Memorial Day weekend, having fun with friends on Old Hickory Lake. Instead, the Hendersonville college freshman will spend it in Vanderbilt University Medical Center, recovering from traumatic injuries he received on the lake while tubing with friends last weekend. His mother, Gail Stephens, 53, said he was on an inner tube, holding onto a bungee cord and being towed by a jet ski. The cord snapped and rebounded into the 18-year-old’s face.

I-75 work will take all summer (Associated Press)

Road must be anchored to mountain’s side A state highway contractor is trying to complete repairs to a massive rock slide that sent part of Interstate 75 tumbling off a mountain in East Tennessee. The work will take all summer after a “slide within a slide” occurred in Campbell County, not far from the Kentucky border. A first attempt to keep the lanes anchored to the slope involved shooting 20-foot-long nails into the ground at 220 mph. It didn’t work. The first cracks appeared March 8.

State: 3 foster children removed from home of Jeff Ownby (N-S/Donila, Lakin)

Three foster children have been removed from the home of Knox County Commissioner Jeff Ownby and further admissions of children to the home have been suspended, a state department spokeswoman said Friday. Molly Sudderth, director of communications at the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, said the department through the Florence Crittenton Agency had three children in the Ownby home at the time of his arrest Thursday afternoon on an indecent exposure charge.

Evolution Law Has Parallels to Historic Scope’s Trial (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee’s legislature passed a law this spring allowing classroom debate about evolution and other scientific theory. The measure garnered national attention, and comparisons to a piece of Tennessee history, the Scopes Monkey Trial. It was on this day in 1925 that a grand jury in Dayton indicted high school teacher John Scopes on charges of teaching evolution. Just that year, the General Assembly passed the first law in the US banning the theory from public schools.

Millions being pumped into Chattanooga’s stormwater system (TFP/Hightower)

Chattanooga will have collected almost $43 million in water quality fees by the end of next fiscal year after raising stormwater fees two years ago. The money has paid for repairs to drainage ditches, water tests in creeks that flow through the city and planning. “It’s building up a fund that will allow us to take on some major projects,” Mayor Ron Littlefield said Friday. “We have parts of the city that have been in a holding pattern for decades.”

Shelby County Trustee offers to collect taxes (Commercial Appeal/Connolly)

Wharton says city would save $500,000; council will review latest proposal Shelby County Trustee David Lenoir collects county property taxes, and he’s now offering to collect current and past-due taxes for the city of Memphis in exchange for an annual fee of $1.25 million. He argues that the city would save money each year and could avoid an expensive investment in equipment. “We tried to put together a deal that was a win-win,” he said in an interview.

Council Looks at Four Budget Proposals (Memphis Daily News)

The Memphis City Council begins talking seriously Tuesday, May 29, about at least four budget proposals already forwarded by individual council members and possibly more to be unveiled at a council budget committee session. The plans and their parts are the most realistic options for a city operating budget and tax rate that has the seven votes necessary to pass and govern city spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

County committee reaches balanced budget (State Gazette)

On the 12th day of budget hearings, the county budget committee finally reached a balanced general fund budget and unanimously voted to recommend its approval to the Dyer County Commission. The Thursday morning meeting saw some last-minute undoing of previous decisions as well as a decision not to approve any items on the committee’s “wish list”. The meeting opened with a discussion between the Dyer County Clerk’s Office, Chancery Court, Circuit Court and the budget committee on whether revenue collected through court fees could be used to pay for data-processing supplies such as computers and related equipment.

Wounded Tennessee veteran receives new, mortgage-free home (Associated Press)

Shaun Meadows knows how to make an entrance. The wounded warrior and a skydiving team parachuted onto the front lawn of Meadows’ new home in Lynnville on Thursday for a dedication ceremony. Meadows, along with his wife and son, were presented with keys to the home provided by Operation Finally Home, a nonprofit organization that donates new, mortgage-free homes to wounded and disabled veterans.

Four fined for stealing Native American artifacts on TVA property (NS/Marcum)

About the same time TVA held a workshop with Native Americans on how best to protect artifacts and remains on TVA land, four Alabama men were fined in federal court for disturbing Native American remains on TVA property. TVA held a workshop in Chattanooga May 15-17, with representatives of more than a dozen federally recognized tribes to consult with them on the proper identification and care of Native American remains on TVA properties.

Bundled pay in Tennessee spotlight (Nashville Business Journal)

Tennessee was thrust into the debate over how doctors are paid this week with the announcement that BlueCross BlueShield reached agreements with Vanderbilt and three other orthopedic practices to pay for knee and hip replacements under a bundled payment system. Traditionally, payments have been made according to a “fee-for-service” structure, which some have blamed for rewarding volume of care rather than quality.

Closing Scott County’s only hospital means travel for ailing residents (NS/Nelson)

Car after car slowed to a crawl late this week to see the hand-lettered banner that blocked the emergency-room entrance to Scott County’s only hospital. “HOSPITAL-ER CLOSED,” read the block letters on the back side of a vinyl banner touting Mercy Health Partners, which last operated the 25-bed acute-care hospital in Oneida. A smaller sign directed visitors to a still-operational phone next to the outside door, with a direct line to 911.

Long Medical Waits Prove Hard to Cure (Wall Street Journal)

Efforts in the medical world to reduce the amount of time patients spend waiting for appointments can have unintended consequences. If you measure how long patients coming off a waiting list have spent on that list, a hospital has little incentive, while under evaluation, to clear those who already have been waiting longer than average. As soon as they are cleared, the hospital’s numbers get worse.

Unified school board to review Supt. Kriner Cash’s contract (C. Appeal/Roberts)

After months of rumor and rumblings, the unified Shelby County School Board will hold a special meeting June 11 to decide if it will renew Supt. Kriner Cash’s contract. “We want to be very respectful of Dr. Cash and ensure that as he seeks other positions, like he did in Charlotte, that we make sure he has a favorable exit,” board chairman Billy Orgel said Friday. Orgel called the meeting. Board members received the e-mail meeting notice at 5:19 p.m. Friday.

New School System Faces $89M Shortfall (Memphis Daily News)

The gap between expenses and revenues for a countywide school system that debuts in August 2013 is estimated at $89 million by the group that is planning what the school system will look like and how it will operate. The gap, which is a net amount of red ink, is likely to change and become more specific in the next month. The schools consolidation planning commission is still on target to vote on a total draft plan for the consolidated school system at its June 14 meeting.

Sheriff’s deputies make number of drug-related arrests (State Gazette)

Over the past several weeks, the Dyer County Sheriff’s Dept. has made several arrests regarding the manufacturing and possession of meth and other illegal substances. On May 11, sheriff’s deputies took Elizabeth Mathieu, 25, 714 Viar Road, Dyersburg, and Jeffery Warden, 32, 55 Moore Road, Halls, Tenn. into custody after they allegedly threw an active meth lab and a bag of “meth oil” from their vehicle as authorities attempted to pull them over.

 

OPINION

 

Editorial: Memorial Day getaways require buckling belts (Daily News Journal)

If you’re packing up the car today for a family trip for Memorial Day weekend, make sure you buckle your seatbelt before you pull out of the driveway. As traffic is picking up for the summer, law enforcement is cracking down on travelers and trying to make the roads safer. May brought us sunny weather perfect for a nice drive down a country road, but it also brought with it the Governor’s Highway Safety Office’s summer 2012 “Click It or Ticket” campaign as well as National Bike Safety Month and National Motorcycle Safety Month. Nine people have died this year in Rutherford County during traffic crashes.

Free-Press Editorial: Voters beware (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Daily, the public is exposed to news stories, feature articles and social sites that promote data expressed in a polling format. The purpose of using polls is to reflect public opinion in a surveyed area of interest with an identified population. A classic example is the Trident sugar-free gum promotion in the mid-1960s that “4 out of 5 dentists surveyed would recommend sugarless gum to their patients who chew gum.” Credibility. Persuasion. Consumer appeal. Political marketing is barely different. Candidates will use internal polling to guide their messages, identify their best audiences, and expose weaknesses.

Editorial: The Med bounces back (Commercial Appeal)

Tough management decisions and collaborative efforts have put The Med on sound financial footing. It wasn’t that long ago that officials with the Regional Medical Center at Memphis were saying the hospital wouldn’t survive without a $30 million-a-year bailout. Flash ahead to Wednesday, when the public hospital’s management team said they are expecting The Med to be profitable in 2013, the third year in a row. The Med’s proposed budget also includes socking away $30 million into a savings account that might be used one day to build a new hospital.

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