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August 3 TN News Digest

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

Courting Conflicts (TN Report)

Most defendants would love to have the power to handpick judges assigned to decide a lawsuit against them. Gov. Bill Haslam, it seems, finds himself in just that enviable position. Late last Friday afternoon, Haslam announced he had chosen the members of a special ad hoc panel. The panel will serve as a temporary state Supreme Court to rule on a lawsuit that names the governor as a defendant. The move became necessary after all the the sitting members of the Tennessee Supreme Court recused themselves from hearing the case of John Jay Hooker, on behalf of himself and others, v. Governor Bill Haslam, et al.

Tax holiday time: Weekend spurs local back-to-school sales (TFP/O’Neil)

There’s no snow on the ground, lights on the trees or a fat bearded man sitting in the mall, but at Hamilton Place’s Mac Authority store, tax free weekend may as well be the end of December. “This is our Christmas. It’s bigger than Black Friday for us, too,” assistant store manager John Whitely said as he prepared his store for the flood of customers he’s expecting this weekend. “It’s fantastic. We’re really excited.” Whitely said the store had a line out the door as customers came in to order their new computers, one product eligible for a nearly 10 percent savings today through Sunday as Tennessee halts sales tax collection.

Clarksville stores ready for Tax-Free Weekend (Leaf Chronicle)

Tax-Free Weekend is quite possibly the second-biggest shopping event of the year, next to Black Friday, and stores are ready for the influx of shoppers. Employees at both Best Buy and Sears in Clarksville offered tips for those who will be shopping during the Aug. 3 to 5 savings weekend. “I would say the biggest tip is patience. The lines will be long and we appreciate every customer that comes out, but the lines will be long. It’s going to be almost a prep for Black Friday,” said Rick Pyle, general manager for the Clarksville Best Buy.

Second lane of I-75 reopens in Campbell County (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

All lanes of Interstate 75 South in Campbell County now are reopened following landslides that wiped out a southbound stretch of the route earlier this year. The second lane was reopened today, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Nagi. Starting Monday, one northbound lane will be closed at mile marker 143 on weekday mornings and afternoons, Nagi said. Both northbound lanes, though, will be open on nights and weekends. The southbound stretch initially was damaged in March when the slope below it began to give way.

Agreement finalized over Stieglitz Collection (City Paper/Greenberg)

After seven years and several court appeals, the agreement between Fisk University and Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton to sell a half-share of the $60 million Alfred Stieglitz Collection was finalized in Davidson County Chancery Court on Thursday afternoon. The controversial arrangement will rotate the collection between Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Fayetteville, Ark., and Fisk every two years. Fisk will receive $30 million in cash in exchange for the half-share.

19 year old charged with TennCare fraud (Cleveland Daily Banner)

A Bradley County man was charged with TennCare fraud for allegedly using the program to obtain prescription drugs, which he later sold. The Office of Inspector General, assisted by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, arrested Cody Jarred Prince, 19, of Cleveland. An indictment in Bradley County accused him of one count each of TennCare fraud and sale or delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance. According to OIG, Prince used the TennCare benefit to obtain a prescription for the painkiller Percocet at a local pharmacy, while planning to sell a portion of the drug.

Ten incumbents unseated in Legislature (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

At least six sitting Republican representatives, including the chairman of the House GOP Caucus and the Education Committee, were defeated in Thursday’s primary elections, and a couple of other officeholders endured close calls. On the Democratic side, four incumbents were also unseated, but that was the result of redistricting that deliberately pitted incumbent versus incumbent in four races. The upset of the evening statewide was the defeat of House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville by Courtney Rogers, an Air Force veteran who benefited from more than $75,000 spent by the National Rifle Association.

GOP Eyes Seats of Retiring Democrats (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Nashville physician Steve Dickerson narrowly won a three-way race in the Republican primary to replace state Senator Joe Haynes, one of several Democrats who are retiring. He’ll face attorney Phillip North who won the Democratic primary. With a spate of retirements this year, the minority party is concerned about protecting its shrinking turf in Tennessee. Voter Judy Sullivan lives near the Nashville Zoo in the district of outgoing Rep. Janis Sontany.

Lynn Bests Incumbent for Former Mt. Juliet Seat (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Susan Lynn of Mt. Juliet is headed back to the General Assembly. She beat single-term incumbent Linda Elam by a two-to-one margin in the Republican primary. Lynn vacated the seat two years ago in a failed run for state Senate. Elam is the former mayor of Mt. Juliet and won District 57 by a landslide in 2010. The campaign had become tense in recent weeks as Elam continued to challenge Lynn to a public debate. Yesterday was just the primary, but no Democrats are registered to run for the Wilson County seat in November.

Tracy defeats GOP Senate challenger (Gannett/Stockard)

Republican state Sen. Jim Tracy captured a third four-year legislative term Thursday with a landslide primary victory over Republican challenger Matt Randolph of Ardmore in the 14th Senate District. Tracy, a Shelbyville Republican, faces no Democratic opposition in the November state election. As of 9 p.m., with 41 of 46 Rutherford County precincts reporting, Tracy had won 86 percent of the vote. As part of redistricting statewide, Tracy is moving from the 16th Senate District to the redrawn 14th Senate, which includes eastern Rutherford, Bedford, Lincoln, Maury and Marshall counties.

North, Dickerson to vie for 20th District seat (Tennessean/Allyn)

Attorney Phillip North, a Democrat, will face Republican physician Steve Dickerson in November’s general election for the 20th District’s state Senate seat. North, who was widely expected to land the Democratic nomination, bested Tennessee State University professor James Baxter by a 2-to-1 spread, according to preliminary returns Thursday night. Dickerson, who was running against David Hall and Rob Mortensen, said his message leading into the general election will focus on jobs, education and cutting government waste.

15 votes separate Gardenhire, Vital (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sher)

The hotly contested 10th Senate District Republican primary teetered on the edge of an electoral cliff late Thursday night, with Republican Todd Gardenhire holding a scant 15-vote lead over rival Greg Vital, according to unofficial returns. But Gardenhire was unwilling to claim victory and Vital unwilling to concede defeat, saying uncounted provisional ballots and overseas military ballots could change the outcome. Gardenhire called the results “exciting. I don’t think anyone will get any sleep tonight,” he said.

Favors tops Brown in House 28 upset (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Haman)

One thing is certain after Thursday night’s election — Rep. Tommie Brown won’t be returning to the state House in January. JoAnne Favors carried Thursday night’s election with 72.2 percent of the vote in a newly drawn district that pitted two black Democratic stalwarts against one another in a bruising primary. Brown, 78, defended a seat she’s held since 1992, earning 27.6 percent of the vote. Favors, 69, who was elected to sister House District 29 in 2004, made the difficult decision to challenge her after being drawn into District 28 earlier this year.

Cobb loses, three other incumbents win in state House (TFP/Garrett, Sohn)

One Republican incumbent lost his state House of Representatives seat, but three others will keep theirs, at least until November. In a lively Republican primary for the House District 31, Ron Travis, a Dayton businessman, beat Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, in the recently redrawn district that cut out Hamilton County, and now includes Rhea, Sequatchie, Bledsoe and part of Roane counties. Travis, 57, squeaked out a win, pulling 51 percent of the vote to Cobb’s 49 percent, but he lost in his home county of Rhea.

Hill wins GOP District 3 primary (Herald-Courier)

Blountville Republican Timothy Hill Tuesday night won the GOP primary for Tennessee House District 3 seat, defeating three candidates for the party’s nomination. Hill defeated runner-up Kevin Parsons by a near 2-1 margin and easily drubbed two other candidates – Karen Greene Morrell and Thomas White – to become the Republican nominee for the District 3 seat. The district covers all of Johnson County and parts of Carter and Sullivan Counties- including Bristol, Blountville and BluffCity in SullivanCounty.

Niceley to represent 8th District in Tenn. Senate (Times-News)

State Rep. Frank Niceley rode his fund-raising strength and name recognition to victory Thursday in Tennessee’s newly renumbered 8th Senatorial District GOP primary. The Strawberry Plains Republican defeated Hawkins County Republican Cynthia Bundren Jackson, Jefferson County Republican Hobart Rice and Union County Commissioner Jeff Brantley. According to unofficial returns, Niceley received 7,020 votes compared to Jackson’s 5,430 votes, Brantley’s 1,816 votes and Rice’s 1,483 votes.

Second time lucky for 3rd District House hopeful Timothy Hill (Times-News)

Blountville businessman Timothy Hill’s second attempt at winning Tennessee’s 3rd House District GOP primary was successful Thursday. Hill defeated former Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons and Bluff City Republicans Karen Greene Morrell and Thomas White. Hill garnered 2,851 votes compared to 1,544 for Parsons, 876 for Morrell, and 85 for White. In forums across the district, Hill insisted he was the conservative choice in the race. Hill’s front-running fund raising was fueled by connections with local lawmakers, and he received campaign contributions from out-of-district sources.

Van Huss beats incumbent Ford in 6th District House race (Johnson City Press)

Republican newcomer Micah Van Huss entered the political arena for the first time Thursday and promptly knocked incumbent state Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, out of the running for a chance at a fourth term. Van Huss will now face Democrat Michael Clark in the Nov. 6 election for the right to serve in Nashville as the 6th District House representative. Van Huss garnered 3,150 votes (53.8 percent) to Ford’s 2,699 (46.1 percent). “My wife and I knocked on doors, and again and again we were thanked,” he said from La Carretta restaurant in Gray while surrounded by family and friends.

Hill wins Republican primary for 3rd House District (Johnson City Press)

Timothy Hill won the Republican nomination for the 3rd state House of Representative District on Thursday with a convincing win over three opponents. Leah Kirk was unopposed on the Decocratic Primary and will face Hill in November in the heavily Republican district. “I am so proud of my team and so honored to be the Republican nominee,” Hill said after the results were in. He had overwhelming wins in Sullivan and Carter counties and finished a strong second to Parsons in Johnson County.

GOP winners to challenge Dems in Nov. (Jackson Sun)

Winners in contested Republican primaries in state Senate District 24, state House District 71 and state House District 81 will move on to the general election, facing opposition from Democratic or independent challengers in November. In the state Senate District 24 race, which includes Obion, Weakley, Henry, Gibson, Carroll and Benton counties, John Stevens defeated Danny C. Jowers to go on to face Democrat Brad Thompson, of Union City, in November’s election. Stevens said he now looks toward a tough fight in the general election.

Day beats Steward in GOP bid for state House 74 (Leaf Chronicle)

Nick Steward lost a lot of support in recent months in his bid to be the Republican nominee for state House District 74, and it showed in his election results here at home. In Montgomery County, Steward had only 221 votes. His opponent, Lauri Day, had almost double that with 434. In Houston County, Steward fared a bit better, taking 201 votes to Day’s 290. In Humphreys, Day’s home county, the results were more dramatic: Day 1,019, Steward 550. Total unofficial results for District 74 from all three counties: Day 1,743; Steward 972.

Maggart loses state House GOP primary (Associated Press/Johnson)

Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart has lost her state House primary to a retired Air Force officer backed by the National Rifle Association. With 88 percent of precincts reporting Thursday night, Lt. Col. Courtney Rogers had more than 1,630 votes, or 58 percent, compared with Maggart’s 1,157, or 42 percent. In the two dozen races where GOP state lawmakers were facing challenges, three incumbents were defeated and two others were trailing. Two incumbents were clinging to razor-thin leads.

NRA-Backed Rogers Unseats Maggart (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

A four-term member of the state House has been unseated by political newcomer Courtney Rogers who enjoyed the backing of the National Rifle Association. Incumbent Debra Maggart lost the seat after an outside campaign to defeat her. Maggart became a target after she went along with Republican leadership and helped scuttle a bill allowing gun owners to store weapons in their car while at work. The NRA and the Tennessee Firearms Association spent a combined $100,000 on ads attacking Maggart.

Courtney Rogers defeats Debra Maggart in 45th race (Tennessean/Yankova)

Challenger Courtney Rogers leads Republican Caucus Chair Debra Maggart 3,392 to 2,421 votes with 36 out of 36 precincts reporting in Sumner County’s 45th District House race. The Sumner County Election Commission said those totals do not include tallies from early voting numbers. There were 6,357 early votes cast. Hendersonville resident Maggart was first elected to the 45th in 2004. She hadn’t had a primary challenger in any of her four terms as an incumbent until this year. Rogers, a Goodlettsville resident and former tea party leader, has a military background, having served in the U.S. Air Force and the Tennessee Air National Guard.

Tennessee GOP Caucus chairwoman defeated (Commercial Appeal)

Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart lost her state House primary Thursday to a retired Air Force officer backed by the National Rifle Association. With 88 percent of precincts reporting Thursday night, Lt. Col. Courtney Rogers had more than 58 percent of the votes, compared with Maggart’s 42 percent. In the two dozen races where GOP state lawmakers were facing challenges, three incumbents were defeated and two others were trailing. Two incumbents were clinging to razor-thin leads.

Incumbents Maggart, Pruitt bested, while Black defeats Zelenik (CP/Hale, Meador)

Amid hoops, hollers and whistles, a triumphant Courtney Rogers took the stage as the newly minted Republican standard-bearer for Tennessee’s 45th House District. “Thank you very much. Honestly, this process was too big for me alone,” said Rogers in what was a brief victory speech interrupted by a prayer held on the dais with her family. Rogers bested incumbent House GOP Caucus chair Debra Maggart 4,643 to 3,444, maintaining a double-digit lead as returns from the Sumner County district trickled in.

Most congressional incumbents will march ahead (Tennessean/Cass)

Most of Middle Tennessee’s congressional incumbents marched ahead with easy victories Thursday and will now turn their full attention to the general election. While U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s heated Republican primary rematch with – and ultimate victory over – Lou Ann Zelenik drew most of the headlines, Black’s colleagues from both parties were quietly advancing toward the November ballot. Republicans gained control of Tennessee’s U.S. House delegation in 2010, picking up three seats that November to grab a 7-2 advantage.

Black, Fleischmann prevail (Jackson Sun)

Freshman U.S. Reps. Diane Black and Chuck Fleischmann on Thursday turned back vigorous attempts by Republican rivals to deny them another term in Congress. Fleischmann defeated dairy executive Scotty Mayfield and Weston Wamp, the son of the former congressman representing the 3rd District in East Tennessee. “I look forward to returning to Congress to continue to fight for the conservative values I’m committed to,” Fleischmann said in an emailed statement.

Black Beats Zelenik Again (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Incumbent Diane Black easily won her rematch against Lou Ann Zelenik in the 6th Congressional district’s GOP Primary. Two years ago, Black squeaked past Zelenik by fewer than 300 votes. This time, the margin of victory was more than two to one. In many ways, the tone of this race felt like deja vu. Just like in 2010, both women were the subject of attack ads, some of which were paid for by outside groups. They traded jabs over who was more conservative, which one is a career politician, and who could be tougher on Islam and Sharia law.

Diane Black easily beats Lou Ann Zelenik in 6th District (Tennessean/Sisk)

U.S. Rep. Diane Black defeated rival Lou Ann Zelenik to win the Republican nomination for the 6th Congressional District in a race that could serve as a bellwether for the relationship between mainstream conservatives and tea party activists across Tennessee and the nation. Black led Zelenik by a 2-to-1 margin with most precincts reported after a nasty campaign that one national commentator called “the craziest GOP House race of the year.”

Diane Black, Bob Corker win (Tennessean/Sisk, Cass)

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker gained a Democratic opponent for the fall and U.S. Rep. Diane Black won convincingly in fiercely contested primary battles Thursday. But state Rep. Debra Maggart fell to challenger Courtney Rogers in a statehouse race that drew national attention as a test of the power of the National Rifle Association in the wake of the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting. Corker rolled to the Republican nomination for a second term in the Senate, easily defeating four political unknowns.

Corker gets most votes in Senate re-election bid (Times Free-Press/Flessner)

Despite strong intra-party challenges to many Republicans in Congress, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker easily won the GOP nomination for a second term on Tuesday by capturing more than 85 percent of the vote in the five-candidate GOP field. Corker, the 59-year-old former Chattanooga mayor who narrowly won his seat over former Memphis Congressman Harold Ford Jr. in 2006, will have a much easier time this year in November. Seven Democratic candidates sought the longshot chance of unseating Corker, but collectively the Democrats received only about a third of the vote Corker got in Thursday’s balloting.

Fleischmann fends off GOP challengers (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Carroll)

After a bitter, expensive campaign, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann defeated Scottie Mayfield and Weston Wamp, winning Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District Republican primary and dispatching two popular challengers with built-in name recognition. “All across the 3rd District, I want y’all to know tonight, this is not just a victory — it’s a huge victory by over 8 percentage points over two big names,” Fleischmann said at his victory party at the DoubleTree Hotel in Chattanooga. Still, Mayfield did not officially concede, citing possible irregularities in Hamilton County.

Chuck Fleischmann wins hard-fought 3rd U.S. House primary (News-Sentinel/Vines)

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah won the Republican primary on Tuesday in his bid for a second term, with Anderson County playing a major role in his bid to continue representing the 3rd Congressional District. Weston Wamp of Chattanooga, son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, took Hamilton County but finished third in the race, which also included Scottie Mayfield of Athens, who came in second. According to The Associated Press, Fleischmann overall netted 39 percent of the vote; Mayfield, 31 percent; and Wamp, 29 percent.

Fincher, Blackburn look to November (Jackson Sun)

U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher will have the chance to serve another term in Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District after defeating Republican challenger Annette Justice by a wide margin in the August primary. Democrat Timothy D. Dixon also will move on to November’s general election after defeating opponents Wes Bradley and Christa Stoscheck on Thursday night. Dixon defeated Bradley by 181 votes. Independent candidates James Hart and Mark Rawles also will run for the position in November.

DesJarlais’ health-care fight advances (Tennessean/Barton)

TN Republican gets hearing with committee Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ argument that the health-care reform law lacks wording needed to implement a crucial part of it took a major step forward Thursday. The Jasper Republican got a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on his claim that the Internal Revenue Service lacks authority to tax employers who fail to offer health policies and leave workers to buy coverage through federally established exchanges.

‘Operator error’ causes husband, wife to vote in different races (CP/Greenberg)

Exiting a Glencliff-area polling place Thursday morning where she had just voted in the Democratic primary, Virginia Welsch picked up on a procedural error in Thursday’s election. Welsch and husband Michael Muldoon, who lives in the same residence and showed up at the voting site a few minutes earlier, had received two different ballots and thus voted in two different races. Welsch’s ballot included the race for state House District 53, featuring Jason Powell and Jason Potts, but her husband’s ballot featured House District 52 in which Rep. Mike Stewart is running unopposed.

Bradley voters reject wheel tax (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Higgins)

County voters overwhelmingly rejected a wheel tax Thursday. With all 17 county precincts reporting, plus early and absentee votes, more than 75 percent of voters cast ballots against the $32 levy, according to the Bradley County Election Commission’s unofficial count. The county election commission will meet Monday to certify the results. Bradley voter turnout Thursday, plus early voting, was 25 percent. “The taxpayers are sending a message to government that you have to tighten your belt just as we have to tighten ours,” said County Commissioner Ed Elkins, a wheel tax opponent.

Alcoa residents overwhelmingly pass sales tax increase for school (NS/Coleman)

Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson wasn’t surprised the residents of Alcoa passed a referendum to raise the city’s sales tax 0.5 percent to pay for a new $30 million high school. The measure passed by a margin of 1,018 to 267, according to unofficial results. “That is a phenomenal mandate from the citizens that they want to build a new high school,” he said. “We’ll certainly carry forth with their marching orders and get that under way as soon as we can.”

Washington County sales tax increase not approved (Johnson City Press)

Washington County voters on Thursday rejected a proposed quarter-cent local sales tax increase that would have been used to counteract the strain imposed on local school systems due to decreasing state funding and increasing educational costs. The count was roughly 3-1 against the tax increase, with 6,895 (63.6 percent) voting against and 3,941 (36.8) voting for the tax. A total of 11,382 people voted in the election — about 15.3 percent of registered voters. “It looks like less than 20 percent of voters turned out,” said Ron Dykes Washington County Schools’ director.

A Likely Reprieve for Food Stamp Program (Stateline)

Inaction on Capitol Hill has been blamed recently for everything from near-shutdowns of the federal government to a historic downgrade in the U.S. credit rating. But this week, congressional stalemate over a sweeping farm bill has set back the clock on impending budget cuts that had worried states and safety net advocates around the country. With Congress’ August recess set to begin and little sign of a breakthrough on the farm bill in the near future, it’s increasingly likely that deep spending reductions contained in the measure will be put off for at least six months, and maybe even a year.

What do jobless do when unemployment checks run out? (USA Today)

Since abruptly losing her $312 weekly unemployment check in June, Laurie Cullinan has depleted her savings, sought food from the Salvation Army and lit candles to save electricity. If she can’t find a job this month, the Royal Oak, Mich., resident worries she’ll be evicted from her apartment, an unthinkable prospect for the 52-year-old, who enjoyed a solidly middle-class lifestyle until she lost her office-manager job two years ago. “What am I going to do if I’m homeless?” says Cullinan, who collected unemployment for 1½ years.

Y-12 protesters plead not guilty; trial set Oct. 9 (News-Sentinel/Munger)

Three anti-war activists entered not-guilty pleas Thursday to federal trespassing charges for their alleged intrusion into the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant last weekend, and a trial date was set for Oct. 9 before federal Magistrate Judge G. Clifford Shirley. The three protesters — Sister Megan Rice, 82, Las Vegas; Michael Walli, 63, Washington, D.C.; and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, Duluth, Minn. — were arraigned on the charges earlier this week. However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office introduced a revised legal path Thursday, substituting an “information” complaint for the same misdemeanor charges.

TVA hit with $175,000 fine (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Marcum)

TVA has agreed to pay a $175,000 fine in connection with a 2010 tree-related power outage the federal utility has cited as an example of the need for its toughened tree-cutting policy. The North American Electric Reliability Corp., which enforces standards for the nation’s bulk power system, has filed a Notice of Penalty on its website saying TVA has agreed to pay the fine plus take actions to mitigate the problem and to bring TVA into compliance with the law.

Demand soars for foreign tech workers (Tennessean/Marsteller)

Valdastri visited Nashville for the first time almost a year ago, not as a tourist but as a new hire. Valdastri joined Vanderbilt University as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in September. In doing so, he left the university where he taught and earned a doctorate in bioengineering and moved his family nearly 4,900 miles from Pisa, Italy. “I really enjoy it here,” Valdastri said. “Nashville is very nice.” Like Valdastri, roughly 300 other Vanderbilt employees also have crossed national borders to work for the region’s largest employer.

Shelby Co. suburbs approve starting schools (CA/Bailey, Charlier, Patterson, Wolff)

Declaring they want no part of a unified countywide school system, voters in Shelby County’s six suburban municipalities gave landslide approval Thursday to referendums establishing their own districts and, in every town but one, agreed to raise sales taxes to pay for them. Measures to create school districts sailed through with margins ranging from nearly 2 to 1 in Millington to 7 to 1 in Collierville. Even in Lakeland, where a former mayor led a political action committee opposing municipal schools, the referendum was favored by almost two-thirds of all voters.

Muni Schools Questions Pass (Memphis Daily News)

Voters in each of the six suburban towns and cities in Shelby County approved establishing municipal school districts in the unofficial results of the Thursday, Aug. 2, county general and state and federal primary elections. But voters in five of the six towns and cities approved a half-cent sales tax hike to provide the minimum local funding required for the school districts by state law. In the closest race of the night, voters in Millington voted down the half-cent sales tax hike by three votes.

Finding dollars for prekindergarten in Shelby County is daunting (CA/Kelley)

Architects of the new unified city-county school district set to open next fall harbor no illusions about the difficulty of finding the money for one of their most significant recommendations — access to a high-quality prekindergarten program for all 4-year-olds whose parents want them to attend. “If we would have had it our way, we would have already had universal pre-k,” said Martavius Jones, a member of the Transition Planning Commission and the unified school board, referring to his days on the old Memphis City Schools board.

Crop-withering drought intensifies across United States (Commercial Appeal)

Drought conditions have worsened in several parched Plains states, further punishing withering corn and soybean crops and devastating the pastureland that ranchers depend on, according to the latest U.S. drought map. Thursday’s release of the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map came as the House took up disaster-relief legislation meant to help livestock producers who have seen feed prices soar due to what for many is the worst drought in decades. That legislation, opposed by conservation and anti-tax groups who see it as another government bailout, was unlikely to receive Senate consideration before Congress adjourns for its August recess.

Michigan: Michigan City Outsources All of Its Schools (Wall Street Journal)

Highland Park Turns Over Troubled Operations to For-Profit Charter Firm The public school district in this hard-luck city has come up with a radical answer for its troubled education system: It is outsourcing all of it. Highland Park School District, one of the state’s lowest-performing academically, says it will turn over its three schools and nearly 1,000 students to a private, for-profit charter school company—the second district in Michigan to take such a drastic step to avert financial collapse.

 

OPINION

 

Editorial: MTSU to lead Tennessee into future of education (Daily News Journal)

The future of K-12 education in Tennessee lies with analyzing data to improve student achievement, and MTSU will be a leader in helping educators reach that end. MTSU received approval recently from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, following an OK from the Tennessee Board of Regents, to begin offering a Doctor of Education in Assessment, Learning and School Improvement. With its roots as a teachers college stretching back 100 years, MTSU is already a leader in teacher education. This degree should solidify its standing in that arena, after efforts to offer education doctoral programs were previously blocked by a desegregation lawsuit.

Guest columnist: Reducing waste sent to landfills would add jobs (Tennessean)

Tennessee is the leading landfill state in America. We are the only state to count landfilled construction waste as “recycled.” Construction waste is the easiest waste to recycle; yet, this loophole increased construction-waste landfills from 12 in 1994 to 80 today. Multinational landfill companies extract $1.4 billion annually from our state to collect, process, haul and landfill solid waste at a cost of $160 a ton; $1.4 billion is nearly the total budget of Metro Nashville. Solid waste is transported 12 million miles a year to landfills in Tennessee. At 9 a.m. Aug. 7, on the 17th floor of the L&C Tower, the state Solid Waste Disposal Control Board will vote on proposed regulations that would perpetuate Tennessee’s landfill-dominated system.

Editorial: Keep pushing for health care reform (Commercial Appeal)

The public hearing planned in Memphis Friday to help Tennessee state officials figure out what should be covered in any state-approved health insurance exchanges won’t fix all that is wrong with the nation’s health care system. But it’s a step in the right direction. Although howls of protest still echo across this country, the U.S. Supreme Court did the right thing by keeping the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act going forward. The decision allows this nation to continue on its zigzag path toward true health care reform. And we must do just that.

Editorial: Knox Schools should handle surplus wisely (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Knox County Schools expects to wind up the past fiscal year with a surplus that could possibly reach $10 million. A combination of higher-than-expected tax revenues, increased state funding and prudent spending led to the windfall, according to county officials. The school system now must figure out how best to use the money, but it seems clear that at least a portion should go toward funding projects from this year’s failed bid for a substantial increase in the schools’ budget. Knox County Finance Director Chris Caldwell said increased sales, property and delinquent tax collections, plus more money from the state’s Basic Education Program, will give the schools $6.6 million more than anticipated.

Pam Strickland: Protesters point out ugly truth about Y-12 (News-Sentinel)

Growing up in Roane County, I was told that one of the respectable jobs was working at the plants in Oak Ridge, never mind what they were doing there. It was good money and a secure job, just like the Tennessee Valley Authority and the railroads. And it helped pay for our schools. We filled out paperwork every year at school explaining who in our family worked for TVA and the U.S. Department of Energy facilities in Oak Ridge. Yet when I got older and fully understood that the uranium used to make the bombs that obliterated the human beings in Hiroshima was processed in Oak Ridge, I wasn’t so much proud of the plants as I was ashamed.

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