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August 13 TN News Digest

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

Haslam, Dean Tout Free Community College for Nashville Grads (TN Report)

Both Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean were on hand Monday morning at Nashville State’s southeast campus for the announcement of a new program offering free community college and technical school tuition to all Metro public school graduates. The initiative, called “nashvilleAchieves,” makes Davidson County the twenty-sixth in the state to offer high school seniors such a deal under a larger umbrella organization called tnAchieves. That organization was started five years ago by Randy Boyd, a Knoxville pet supply mogul and higher-ed adviser to Gov. Haslam.

Haslam, Dean: Nashville students to get free community college (Tenn/Fingeroot)

News that Metro Nashville high school seniors can attend community college or technical school tuition-free set off a firestorm of excitement for a Maplewood High School advisor, who thinks the plan is nothing short of life-changing for his students. “This is really a paradigm shift for an entire community,” said Ryan Jackson, dean of students and graduation coach at Maplewood, where he finds that generations of poverty in the neighborhood keep students from even dreaming of jobs that pay more than minimum wage.

Program to pay tuition for 2-year degree (Associated Press)

Graduating high school seniors will be able to attend a community college tuition-free thanks to a program that’s expanding to Davidson County. Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announced the program at a press conference on Monday. The public-private partnership is an expansion of a larger initiative that provides scholarships to students in 26 other Tennessee counties. Officials say the program helps students who may not be able to pay tuition but want to further their education at a community or technical institution.

Free Community College To Anyone Graduating From A Nash High School (WPLN)

Graduates from any of Nashville’s 20 public high schools can now get a two-year degree paid for by philanthropists. The program anticipates to fund tuition for hundreds of students starting next fall. High school seniors must first apply for all of the state and federal grants available to them. After that, Mayor Karl Dean says the program – dubbed nashvilleAchieves – will cover the rest. “They can go to college – community college – for free. And they might not have been thinking they could go to college, and no do know they can go, and a lot of them will take advantage of it.”

Mayor Dean makes announcement about access to college education (WKRN-TV)

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean introduced a new program Monday that could change the lives of hundreds of Metro high school students. “The new Nashville Achieves will provide any public high school senior the opportunity to attend a community college or technology center tuition free.” The program was initially started in Knox County by businessman and philanthropist Randy Boyd. “If you go to community college you get that two year degree, you’re going to make 400% more in your lifetime than if you just went to high school,” Boyd said.

College Access Program Expands To Nashville (WTVF-TV Nashville)

Graduating high school seniors will be able to attend a community college tuition-free thanks to a program that’s expanding to Nashville. Mayor Karl Dean, Governor Bill Haslam and other officials announced nashvilleAchieves Monday at the southeast campus of Nashville State Community College. The program will open in the fall at all MNPS high schools. Officials said the program helps students who may not be able to pay tuition but want to further their education at a community or technical institution.

Haslam Sees Medicaid Expansion As Component Of Healthier Tennessee (WPLN)

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has been hounded for spending a week promoting a $6 million health and wellness initiative, even while rejecting more than a billion dollars to expand the state’s health insurance program for the poor. Haslam was asked Monday if he sees a disconnect. “There are a lot of behavioral things that impact people’s health. The decision to exercise, the decision to eat better, the decision not to use tobacco do impact that. Obviously we have another decision we’re still working on with expanding Medicaid.

Haslam Says State Office Overhaul Is Moving Ahead (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Governor Bill Haslam says Tennessee will press on with an overhaul of state office buildings, despite a change in leadership at the agency that will carry it out. Steve Cates will step down as Commissioner of General Services on August 20. He helped develop a massive overhaul of state offices. It includes awarding a $38 million contract to a company, in which Governor Haslam invested. Despite some concerns about the plan, the Governor says the state is moving ahead.

Governors’ online school hopes to reach new Tennessee market (CA/Kelley)

Officials of Western Governors University, the state’s new nonprofit online school, will consider the school a success if it can help one percent of its potential market — the 700,000 to 800,000 Tennesseans who have attended but not graduated from college. Goals for the school were outlined in an interview Monday with WGU Tennessee Chancellor Kimberly K. Estep and President Robert W. Mendenhall, who were stopping in Memphis during a tour of the state this week to promote one of Gov. Bill Haslam’s pet projects.

Minor earthquake charted in Tennessee (Associated Press)

The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude-3.3earthquake has been recorded in West Tennessee. The agency’s website says the event occurred around 4:45 p.m. CDT Monday about five miles west of Obion. That location would be about 15 miles north of Dyersburg. A magnitude-2 to -3 is listed as a weak occurrence that causes no damage.

Inmate escapes from Tennessee prison dairy farm (Times Free-Press/Omarzu)

History repeated itself Sunday at the Tennessee Department of Correction’s dairy farm north of Pikeville, Tenn., that supplies dairy products to prisons around the state. Minimum-custody trusty Jeffery Lynn Carter, 32, who was working on the farm near the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex about 7 p.m. CDT, jumped from the tractor he was driving and ran into a nearby woods. Carter was serving a 21-year sentence for convictions in Davidson County of aggravated robbery and attempted aggravated robbery.

Cleveland, Tenn., delays vote on road project changes (Times Free-Press/Leach)

Cleveland leaders say they want Bradley County on board for requested changes related to a Tennessee Department of Transportation project to connect Harriman Road to APD-40. On Monday, the Cleveland City Council agreed to table a vote regarding approval of changes to the project that have been estimated to boost its cost up to $740,000 over its $4 million budget. The $4 million budget has been allocated $2 million from the state and a $2 million local government match, which is split between Cleveland and Bradley County.

Oak Ridge eatery punished by state, city for same underage beer sale (N-S/Fowler)

The state Alcoholic Beverage Commission needs to keep the Oak Ridge Beer Board in the loop when it does undercover sting operations in which restaurants with liquor licenses in the city are cited, board members said Monday. The board’s vote to level a hefty fine on an eatery for an underage beer sale after the ABC had already imposed a stiff penalty for the same offense was criticized by the regional manager of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar. “I feel like we’re getting punished twice,” Bobby Prince told the board. “It’s unfair to use us as an example.”

UTC plans for 600 bed dorm (WDEF-TV Chattanooga)

UTC is in the middle of a growth spurt and that means the campus needs more housing and parking for students. Plans are in place to build a 600-bed dormitory facility. The university says it would ideally like to use the site that is currently home to the State Offices building on McCallie Avenue because it’s potentially large enough handle the demand. “It’s one of the locations we’re looking at. Right now we don’t have the land so we can’t say this is where we’re going to put anything. Once we have some land acquired then we will be able to see whether or not that land would fit this use,” said UTC spokesperson Chuck Cantrell.

TN Supreme Court changes statutory rape evidence based on case (CA/Buser)

Abandoning legal precedent dating to 1895, the Tennessee Supreme Court Monday ruled that a minor victim between 13 and 17 who consents to sex with an adult in a statutory rape case should not be classified as an accomplice. The ruling upholding the conviction of a Memphis man also said the victim’s testimony alone is enough and that corroboration through other evidence is no longer required. “Today, we join the vast majority of states that have addressed the issue by rejecting the application of the accomplice corroboration rule to victims of statutory rape,” wrote Chief Justice Gary Wade in the unanimous opinion.

A Victim Is Not An Accomplice (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee’s Supreme Court Bucks Precedent In Statutory Rape Case Tennessee’s Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that a victim of statutory rape cannot be considered an accomplice. At issue was how much the testimony of a then-14 year old girl should count in the trial of Dewayne Collier, who was 42 when he had sex with her. Collier’s lawyers argued the girl should be considered an accomplice, given that she was a willing participant. That’s an important point, because the word of an accomplice has to be backed up with more evidence. In this case, there isn’t that kind of definitive proof.

Murfreesboro mosque court fight heats up again (Tennessean/Broden)

The Tennessee Supreme Court will decide if it will review whether Rutherford County provided adequate public notice before approving plans for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. And once again, the battle is heating up between those on both sides of the debate. Tom Smith, an attorney for a group of residents challenging the mosque’s approval, said the high court should rule on the case — just as it did in a case in which it decided that neighbors in Rutherford County were not provided enough notice relating to a shooting range.

Legislature to Explore Annexation Votes (Memphis Daily News)

The Tennessee legislature has put a moratorium on annexations, and even if the moratorium wasn’t in place, the Memphis City Council hasn’t been anxious to annex any territory beyond South Cordova for several years. But the issue of annexation as a process remains a lively one, specifically whether residents of an area to be annexed should be able to vote on the annexation. “We are one of the handful of states in the United States that still allows a municipality to really exercise their heavy hand of government and simply come in and take a particular territory,” state Rep. Steve McManus said on the WKNO-TV program “Behind The Headlines.”

State GOP leader visits city (Jackson Sun)

The timing could not have been better for Ed Jackson, and listening to Chris Devaney, you get the same feeling for the Republican Party. Devaney, the chairman of Tennessee’s Republican Party, spoke at the Madison County Republican Party’s monthly meeting at Logan’s Roadhouse Monday. Devaney believes Ed Jackson is tailor-made to succeed state Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, who announced July 31 that he will not seek a third term to represent the 27th District in the state Senate. The position represents Madison, Crockett, Lauderdale, Dyer and Lake counties.

Anderson County ponders charging inmates for toilet paper, toothpaste (NS/Fowler)

Anderson County jail inmates would be charged for their prison clothing, their toothpaste, even their razor blades and toilet paper in one of several resolutions prepared for Anderson County Commission’s consideration this month. Anderson County Law Director Jay Yeager said he drafted the resolutions, which he said are backed by state law. Other proposals include charging inmates a co-pay for medical and dental care and assessing fees for jailers to escort prisoners to hospitals to visit ailing family members or to funeral homes when there is a death in an inmate’s immediate family.

TN preservationists are out to save training ground of Rosa Parks (Tenn/Cass)

Rosa Parks trained here a few months before she refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus. “We Shall Overcome” became a civil rights anthem here. Student activists from Nashville held retreats in the lakeside buildings, and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. came to visit. More than 50 years after the state of Tennessee seized Highlander Folk School’s property, not much remains of a place that gave so much inspiration to people who fought for social justice while posing such a visceral threat to the status quo that its founder was accused of being a Communist agitator.

Hamilton County register of deeds’ $2 fee will benefit county (TFP/Brogdon)

A recent decision to allow Hamilton County Register of Deeds Pam Hurst to charge a $2 fee for e-filing documents in her office could generate about $23,000 for the county — and save residents $3 per filing. Hamilton County commissioners voted last week to adopt revisions to Tennessee law that would allow Hurst to collect the fee, and county information technology staff are working to build a filing website. Contrary to the title, Hurst’s office records more than 160 types of documents including deeds, powers of attorney, plots, military discharges and others.

Budget talks resume today at City Council (Nooga)

City Council members will gather around the board table once more Tuesday to discuss specifics of Mayor Andy Berke’s $212 million budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. Tuesday’s discussion comes one week after the group spent four hours going over the mayor’s financial plan and offered dozens of questions to his staff requesting clarity on specific items and outcomes the mayor desired to see. bThe budget was unveiled late last month. On Friday, Berke’s staff circulated a 13-page document to the council, seeking to provide brief answers in writing to each question leveled during last week’s session.

Alexander: Tainted drugs more proof Congress needs to act soon (TN/Wilemon)

The recent recall of tainted drugs made by a Texas-based compounder confirms that “Congress must act soon to prevent another health crisis,” U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the ranking member of the health policy committee said today. The Food and Drug Administration reports that 15 patients in two hospitals who received compounded drugs from the Texas compounder have developed bacterial bloodstream infections thought to be related to the drug infusions. These illnesses come after the fungal meningitis outbreak that began last summer that has led to 15 deaths in Tennessee. That outbreak was also caused by contaminated medicine made by a compounding pharmacy.

Conservative super PAC targets Sen. Lamar Alexander (Nooga)

A heavyweight super PAC is taking aim at Sen. Lamar Alexander, suggesting he was set to receive a political favor for procuring a $400,000 earmark in 2009 for the Tennessee State Museum. The Senate Conservatives Fund, a group once headed by former Sen. Jim DeMint, exists to elect “strong conservatives” to the U.S. Senate. After Nashville news station WTVF reported last week that a traveling exhibit chronicling Alexander’s two terms as Tennessee governor would be postponed after questions arose regarding its timing, the Virginia-based group is claiming the museum’s plans and the senator’s earmark were connected.

Sen. Bob Corker makes second trip to Syrian refugee camp (Nooga)

Sen. Bob Corker is overseas once more this week, and he visited a camp in Turkey for refugees from the ongoing war in Syria near the border of the two countries on Sunday. Corker, who is ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced his travels by posting brief updates to his Twitter account Monday evening. It was the second trip to the area for the senator and former Chattanooga mayor in a year’s time. According to Corker’s posts, he met with a leader of the Syrian opposition; visited troops on the Turkish border; and visited Killis refugee camp, which has become home to thousands of displaced Syrians during the conflict.

A Limit on Consumer Costs Is Delayed in Health Care Law (New York Times)

In another setback for President Obama’s health care initiative, the administration has delayed until 2015 a significant consumer protection in the law that limits how much people may have to spend on their own health care. The limit on out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and co-payments, was not supposed to exceed $6,350 for an individual and $12,700 for a family. But under a little-noticed ruling, federal officials have granted a one-year grace period to some insurers, allowing them to set higher limits, or no limit at all on some costs, in 2014.

First 12 US apprentices graduate from VW program (Associated Press/Schelzig)

The first dozen participants are graduating from Volkswagen’s apprenticeship program at the German automaker’s Tennessee plant. The graduates completed a three-year curriculum that mixed technical skills with paid experience working in the assembly plant in Chattanooga. Graduates are guaranteed jobs at the plant, with an annual salary starting at $40,000. The dual track program is based on the German apprenticeship system, and two of the graduates are headed to yearlong exchanges at VW plants in Germany.

Volkswagen Employees Graduate Mechatronics Program (WDEF-TV Chattanooga)

Volkswagen is custom prepping students to come work for them.. 12 students have just completed the three year Volkswagen Academy program. Their the first graduating class and already have jobs lined up for them “I am planning on staying at Volkswagen. I’m planning on going back to school to get my masters in business,” said Saul Flores. It’s a program instructor Ilker Subasi completed 14 years ago in Germany. “I worked in the same bench over here, filing a medal sheet with passion and it’s a long breeze but in the long run it’s a return of investments of the time” Subasi said.

Erlanger CEO says Hutcheson deal is still a possibility (Times Free-Press/Harrison)\

The “will they-won’t they” suspense continues to build in the latest episode in the ongoing drama of Hutcheson Medical Center and Erlanger Health System’s relationship. Hutcheson has decided to see what other fish are in the sea, as North Georgia officials let a leasing agreement between the two hospitals die quietly after a closed-door meeting late Friday night. Meanwhile, CEO Kevin Spiegel says Erlanger is still “committed” to working out some kind of partnership, as long as it’s “sustainable.” “We’re absolutely not out,” Spiegel said Monday.

Lawsuit seeks to depose CEO Haslam, spokesman Ingram (TN/Roche)

Lawyers for a Georgia trucking firm want to depose Pilot Flying J chief executive James A. Haslam and key members of his staff as part of a newly filed suit charging the national truck stop chain with secretly cutting promised rebates on diesel fuel purchases. The suit, which was filed in circuit court in Knoxville late last week, charges that Pilot engaged in “inaccurate, fraudulent rebate procedures and pricing structures for certain customers” including Cedar Creek in Dalton, Ga. Filed along with the complaint was a notice that the attorneys for Cedar Creek plan to depose Haslam and Pilot spokesman Tom Ingram in October.

Virtual School Operator K-12 Hits Snag In Tennessee Expansion (WPLN-Radio)

A private, for-profit company that started the first statewide cyber school in Tennessee is having trouble getting approval for a second. Tennessee Cyber Academy would be operated by K-12 Inc. and was supposed to begin classes Monday. But a letter from the state’s Department of Education says the school’s application was woefully incomplete, lacking any specifics about student/teacher ratios, length of school days or even how it would enforce attendance policies. “We appreciate your desire to provide additional educational opportunities to students,” writes deputy commissioner Kathleen Airhart.

Metro Schools director pushes for more classroom days (WSMV-TV Nashville)

Students at Metro Schools may have to spend more time in the classroom next year. Schools director Dr. Jesse Register is urging the school board to add five more days to the district’s calendar. The board is set to take up the issue at a meeting Tuesday. One problem with the proposal is the cost, estimated around $20 million. Six of Nashville’s schools are already using the longer calendar, but it’s being funded by a three-year federal grant. The district is also expected to release Tuesday night the results of a phone survey about the school calendar.

Craigslist ad leads to arrests, recovery of Carter Elem computers (NS/Marcum)

An online deal too good to be true has led to felony theft charges against two Knoxville men and the recovery of several computers reported stolen last month from the new Carter Elementary School, authorities announced Monday. Kiarra Montrez Byrd, 23, and Victor Laroy Harrison, 35, were arrested by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office after allegedly selling a computer to an undercover detective, according to arrest warrants. A 21.5-inch iMac desktop turned up for sale on Craigslist shortly after it was stolen during a break-in at the school July 20.

Arizona: Arizona Sues to Expedite Death-Penalty Appeals (Wall Street Journal)

Arizona’s attorney general, hoping to speed up appeals in death-penalty cases, sued the federal government Monday for allegedly delaying a decision on whether the state can expedite the process. Notice of the suit, filed in federal appeals court in Washington Monday, comes after Arizona amended its capital-case procedures to meet congressional requirements passed more than four years ago allowing some states “accelerated status” in death-penalty appeals. The U.S. Justice Department’s “failure to act has deprived [Arizona] of the benefits Congress intended in the form of streamlined procedures,” a statement from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office said.

North Carolina: Governor Signs Voter ID Law (Reuters)

Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law on Monday a Republican-backed requirement that voters present photo identification at the polls. His action was followed immediately by a challenge to the new law, filed in Federal District Court in North Carolina by the American Civil Liberties Union, the A.C.L.U. of North Carolina Legal Foundation, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. The lawsuit challenges parts of the law that end same-day registration and shorten early voting, but does not address the photo ID requirement.

 

OPINION 

Editorial: All should support Knox County Schools’ efforts to improve (N-S)

The 2013-14 school year, which started yesterday, will be a pivotal one in Knox County Schools’ movement to improve education for its nearly 58,000 students. With the full implementation of the Common Core State Standards, the reconstitution of the faculty and staff of two of the system’s most underperforming schools, and the start of an ambitious technology program to give students better access to computers, expectations are high. And they should be. Knox County recorded gains in the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests, or TCAPs, for both elementary and secondary students, according to data released last month.

Editorial: Name recognition is not enough to compete for students (C. Appeal)

Former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton’s short-circuited plan to launch nine charter schools in four locations across Shelby County leads to two observations: First, regardless of whether or not you support charter schools, they are doing what the Tennessee legislature hoped they would: providing competitive learning options beyond traditional schools, especially in Memphis, for the parents of children who are zoned to attend failing public schools. Second, because of the competition for students, having a well-known name connected with a charter school is an inadequate marketing tool.

Dave Martin: GOP missing the mark on marriage equality (Times Free-Press)

Though the Republican Party enjoys a stranglehold on Tennessee politics, it has been interesting to watch the national GOP come to the collective realization that a growing number of Americans are entirely disinterested in making the party their political home. Since the 2012 elections the question, “How do we stay relevant?” has been one that right-wing thinkers have grappled with. Most have offered suggestions about ways to “rebrand” or “restructure messaging” to help spur Republican wins in upcoming elections. The Republican Party can do all the repackaging it wants — but without good policy, there is no amount of image-polishing the party can do to make today’s GOP more palatable.

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