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August 26 TN News Digest

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

Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce seeks boost in dual enrollment (Tenn/Brown)

Now, a coalition of business and education groups is shining light on the issue in a bid to reduce or eliminate the cost for students to participate in the classes, which count both as college and high school credit. Earlier this year, the coalition led by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce commissioned a study to look at how to improve the state’s dual enrollment program. The study, performed by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, recommended increasing funding for the program.

Area teachers decry linking license to student test scores (Times-News)

The Tennessee Board of Education’s recent vote to link student test scores to teacher licensure doesn’t sit well with some area teachers. The state BOE on Aug. 16 voted 6-3 to approve contentious new rules on teacher licensure while delaying their implementation until 2015. According to media accounts across the state, The Associated Press, the Tennessee Education Association and interviews of local teachers, many teachers oppose the changes because they tie licenses to student test data.

T-DOT offers grant compromise to save historic limestone sidewalk (T-N)

Rogersville can still save a $229,000 grant to build a “Safe Route to Schools” sidewalk near Rogersville City School, although it will require small property easements from adjacent property owners. In 2009, the Tennessee Department of Transportation awarded Rogersville a $229,000 Safe Routes to Schools grant to replace a historic limestone sidewalk on Broadway Street about 70 feet in length just east of RCS. The sidewalk is uneven, jagged and, in some places, broken. City and school officials had asked the state to allow the limestone to remain part of the project.

Generator to be hauled Knoxville to Greeneville (Associated Press)

A large generator will be slowly moved from Knoxville to Greeneville. The 60-mile trek begins Monday evening over state roads and will move at 8-25 mph. The rig that will carry the massive generator is 16 feet wide and 175 feet long. It will take up at least two lanes of highway. The weight of the load is an estimated 256 tons. The load will begin moving from the Forks of the River Industrial Park out the John Sevier Highway and will end the first night’s transit in Morristown. For up-to-date travel information, motorists may dial 5-1-1 from any land line or cellphone, or follow TDOT on Twitter.

Tenn. lawmakers drafting hemp bill (Associated Press)

Two state lawmakers in Tennessee are pointing to Kentucky’s recent approval of hemp farming as they push for a similar measure. The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1cN8kMm) reports Republican Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains is drafting a bill with Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden, and they plan to introduce the measure in next year’s legislative session. Nicely said Kentucky and six other states have passed measures legalizing hemp even though federal law prohibits it. Nicely said there also is support for changing federal laws, notably from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, both from Kentucky.

Ethics board asked to investigate district attorney (Associated Press)

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell has filed a complaint asking an ethics panel to investigate 10th Judicial District Attorney Steve Bebb. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that Harwell said in a statement on Friday that she asked the Board of Professional Responsibility to conduct a “thorough, prompt investigation and appropriate action.” Two other lawmakers have filed similar complaints. Bebb did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment. A Times Free Press series published last year detailed wide-ranging allegations of misconduct by Bebb and people he supervised.

Maggart looks back on guns-in-trunks fight that derailed political career (TN/Hall)

No good politician takes her career for granted, but Debra Maggart really didn’t expect to see hers die on the issue of gun rights. Her granddaddy was an exhibition shooter for Smith & Wesson. Her family’s business, Carter Hardware Co., included a gun department. She had a lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association, earning its prize A-plus candidate rating. And Maggart was as enmeshed as anyone could be in Tennessee’s Republican Party. Her native Hendersonville elected her to four terms in the House, and her colleagues elected her caucus chairwoman.

Sara Kyle supporters set up PAC (Tennessean/Sisk)

Sara Kyle’s supporters say they have set up a political action committee to encourage her to run against Gov. Bill Haslam next year, amping up the likelihood that the Memphis Democrat will step into the race. The Run Sara Run PAC features some local-level players in Tennessee politics, led by Shelby County Commission Chair Deidre Malone and Chattanooga City Councilman Chris Anderson. The group has put together a news release announcing its formation, a good indication that it is fairly well organized. It says its goal is to demonstrate support for Kyle ahead of the Tennessee Democratic Party’s annual Jackson Day dinner, scheduled for Sept. 7.

Huckabee throws weight behind Sen. Alexander (Tennessean/Cass)

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has written a letter urging conservatives to back U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s bid for a third term. Over four pages released by the Alexander campaign, Huckabee praises the senior Tennessee senator profusely, sprinkling in sentences sure to please tea party and religious conservatives. Huckabee says Alexander has opposed Obamacare, tried to “reverse the trend toward a national school board,” supported “the teaching of American history and civics” and “is not afraid to stand up to this administration.”

Carr claims radio endorsements (Tennessean/Cass)

Meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Joe Carr, who has jumped into the race to unseat Alexander, called attention to a pair of endorsements he’s picked up for his Senate campaign from WTN radio hosts Ralph Bristol and Michael DelGiorno. The two endorsed Carr shortly after he appeared on Bristol’s program Tuesday.

Wisconsin governor seeks Tennessee bucks (Tennessean/Cass)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential Republican presidential candidate, was scheduled to visit Middle Tennessee on Friday for a $2,500-per-couple re-election fund-raiser. An invitation obtained by The Tennessean showed Walker planned to attend a private luncheon at the home of Reba and Willis Johnson at 1301 Moran Road in Franklin, which was formerly country star Alan Jackson’s 135-acre estate. The minimum donation was $2,500, while a $10,000 contribution would get the donor into “the Scott Walker Governor’s Club.” Walker was elected governor in 2010.

Colleges Set to Offer Exit Tests (Wall Street Journal)

Next spring, seniors at about 200 U.S. colleges will take a new test that could prove more important to their future than final exams: an SAT-like assessment that aims to cut through grade-point averages and judge students’ real value to employers. The test, called the Collegiate Learning Assessment, “provides an objective, benchmarked report card for critical thinking skills,” said David Pate, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at St. John Fisher College, a small liberal-arts school near Rochester, N.Y. “The students will be able to use it to go out and market themselves.”

After Supreme Court Ruling, States Act on Juvenile Sentences (Stateline)

In 1980, Henry Hill was convicted of murdering a man in a Saginaw, Mich., park and sentenced to life in prison without parole, the mandatory sentence for the crime. He was 16 years old and functionally illiterate. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life sentences for offenders under 18 are cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore unconstitutional. In the wake of that decision, a federal court this month ruled that Hill and more than 300 other Michigan juvenile lifers are entitled to a parole hearing.

TVA donates to Kentucky coal miner memorial (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Valley Authority is donating $5,000 for a coal miner memorial in western Kentucky. The project will be located at the Muhlenberg County Courthouse and include the names of miners who lost their lives working in the area. TVA operates a coal burning power plant, Paradise Fossil Plant, on the Green River in the county. It burns 20,000 tons of coal a day. Muhlenberg County Judge-Executive Rick Newman says the Paradise Plant keeps the mining industry going in the area. The memorial will have brass statues and a plaque with the names of the miners.

Startup Memphis: Economic development forum to focus on entrepreneurship (CA)

Memphis entrepreneurship past, present and future will take center stage this week when the city’s history of innovation is examined by current business leaders as a template for sustainability and growth. “Accelerating the Continuum: Advancing the Growth of Business Ecosystems” will be the theme of the sixth annual Economic Development Forum sponsored by the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum that will take place Tuesday through Thursday at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, 255 N. Main.

Williamson Co. school officials see pressing need for new campus (TN/Giordano)

With Ravenwood High experiencing its largest freshman class to date and a new subdivision likely in the near future, Williamson County school officials are eyeing the growth in the northeastern section of the county and hoping to step up plans for a new high school. The high school was proposed a few years ago to help with steadily increasing enrollment numbers at Ravenwood, which has reached record numbers. The high school is designed for about 1,600 students but has about 2,000 — including 500 freshmen — this school year, and they use some portable classrooms.

 

 

OPINION 

Robin Smith: County’s high rating a real bragging point (Times Free-Press)

Since 2010, there have been 36 municipal bankruptcy filings in our nation — a sign of the failing economy. Massive financial deficits due to excessive spending, declining revenue, and an ineffectiveness of many local government leaders to implement policies that reform and rescue are much too common. Drum roll, please. There’s great news for us here in Southeast Tennessee. Hamilton County’s government is the only county in the entire state of Tennessee recognized by all three major credit ratings agencies — Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch — as having achieved a AAA rating based on several stringent criteria.

Editorial: A smart deal for taxpayers, workers (Commercial Appeal)

The Memphis City Council is performing its due diligence on the proposal to give Memphis sanitation workers a modest retirement package, but logic and humanitarian concerns are pointing toward eventual approval. When we say modest, we mean a maximum benefit of $12,000 a year, based on a plan that would give retired sanitation workers $400 for every year of service up to 30 years. When we say logical we mean a $1.7 million annual cost for a package that would also yield $4.7 million in annual savings, as part of a deal that would cut 80 waste-management positions through attrition and ask the remaining crews to make about 100 more stops per day.

Times Editorial: Hospitals and secrecy make a scary prescription (TFP)

Erlanger is a public hospital, and Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe has a public hospital authority with trustees appointed by Walker, Dade and Catoosa counties. The counties and the authority together own Hutcheson’s buildings and assets, and lease them to a private, nonprofit Hutcheson Medical Center. Meanwhile, Hutcheson, on the verge of insolvency for much of the past decade, now owes Erlanger $21.55 million on a line of credit issued from the Chattanooga hospital. Confusing as all that may seem, the bottom line is that both entities, no matter how many shell businesses they try to hide behind, are public hospitals that belong to us and spend taxpayer and patient money.  

Editorial: Mixed Signals on Employee Health Insurance (New York Times)

It is hard to know whether to rejoice or lament two striking if somewhat conflicting messages last week about the costs of employer-sponsored health insurance. An authoritative survey found that premiums for family and individual coverage at work — including both the company’s and the worker’s share — have gone up only moderately for the second year in a row, suggesting that health care inflation may finally be abating and that whatever costs the president’s health reforms may add will be readily absorbed. On the other hand, United Parcel Service told its white-collar workers that in an effort to reduce its health care costs, it will no longer cover some 15,000 spouses who can obtain coverage through their own employers.

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