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September 25 TN News Digest

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

Editorial: Birding park at Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge will showcase beauty (N-S)

Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge will become Tennessee’s 56th state park — and the only one located in Knox County. Gov. Bill Haslam formally announced the transition Friday at the Legacy Parks Foundation’s annual luncheon at Seven Islands. “This place offers a unique combination of ecology and recreation,” Haslam told the 400 assembled luncheon guests. “It’s going to be an incredible asset to our network of parks.” Indeed, the transfer of ownership and management of Seven Islands will raise the park’s profile and attract new visitors to a beautiful corner of Knox County.

JSCC, TCAT get $573K grant (Jackson Sun)

Gov. Bill Haslam announced in Jackson on Tuesday that $573,464 will be awarded to and split by the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Jackson and Jackson State Community College. The schools will use the grant toward their efforts to prepare adults to complete certificates and/or degrees in the manufacturing field. The announcement was held in the welding shop of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Jackson campus. Haslam said the funds are expected to increase the number of TCAT graduates by 20 percent, which is also a part of the state’s initiative to increase the number of Tennesseans with a certificate or higher to 55 percent.

Haslam Announces Workforce Development Grant at TCAT-Jackson (TN Report)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a $573,464 workforce development equipment grant for Jackson State Community College (JSCC) and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) – Jackson to help meet the future workforce needs of area communities. The governor proposed and the General Assembly approved $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.

TCAT-Dickson Receives Almost $700K Workforce Development Grant (TN Report)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a $693,961 workforce development equipment grant for the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) – Dickson and its new Clarksville expansion site. The governor proposed and the General Assembly approved $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges, part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.

TN domestic violence drops (Tennessean/Haas)

On the eve of a major report on domestic violence in Nashville, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released new statistics showing statewide progress in fighting the problem. The TBI’s report showed that domestic-related crime dropped in 2012 for the third consecutive year after almost a decade of increases. Analysts examined more than 250,000 incidents throughout the state from 2010 through 2012 and found that while aggravated assaults rose during that time frame, the far more common categories of simple assault and intimidation dropped by a combined five percent.

TBI study shows drop in domestic violence in Tennessee (Times Free-Press)

Reported cases of domestic violence crimes fell 3.4 percent from 2010 through 2012, according a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation study released Tuesday. The study, which analyzed data through the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System, seeks to “gain more insight into the problem,” TBI Director Mark Gwyn said in his introduction. Analysts examined data flagged as “domestic related” and found a 0.4 percent drop in reported cases from 2010 to 2011 as well as a 2.9 percent increase from 2011 to 2012.

TBI report sheds light on domestic violence in Tennessee (WSMV-TV Nashville)

Over the past three years, 275 people in Tennessee have died or been murdered as a result of domestic violence, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The TBI released the results of a 3-year study Tuesday that gives a much clearer picture of who those people are – both the victims and the offenders. Between 2010 and 2012, there were more than 250,000 assaults reported across the state – most of them being simple assaults, such as a slap or something relatively minor. More than half of all domestic assaults were committed by white males, the TBI said, compared to about 40 percent of offenders who were African-American.

TDOT awards $109.3 million contract to finish I-40/240 interchange (CA/Charlier)

In what they called the state’s most expensive single highway project ever bid, Tennessee Department of Transportation officials have awarded a $109.3 million contract to complete the reconstruction of the Interstate 40/240 interchange in East Memphis. Dement Construction Co. of Jackson, Tenn., won the contract for the work, which will begin this fall and last through the summer of 2017. For the past two years, the same company has been working on a $46 million project to widen I-240 between Poplar and Walnut Grove.

TDOT to open bidding Oct. 18 on 53 contracts (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has released the projects for which it will accept bids next month. The department plans to open bidding Oct. 18 on a total of 53 contracts, including 86 projects in 95 counties. TDOT will initiate resurfacing projects on several Tennessee interstate corridors and bids also will be received on several maintenance projects such as cable barrier repair, intersection improvements and bridge repair. Recent federal data show dozens of Tennessee bridges are among the thousands nationwide that have advanced deterioration or are at risk of collapsing.

Tenn. digitizing 1M pages of historical newspapers (Associated Press)

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is adding more than 1 million newspaper pages to its free online collection. The newly added historical newspapers from Greeneville, Jonesborough, Memphis, Sweetwater and Winchester date from the 1850s to almost 1900. The joint Chronicling America project with the University of Tennessee had previously digitized more than 120,000 pages of newspapers from the Civil War era, including 40 titles ranging from cities like Knoxville and Memphis to smaller towns such as Bolivar, Fayetteville and Loudon.

Tenn AG Bob Cooper joins call for FDA to regulate e-cigarettes (NS/Harrington)

Terry Livezey took a puff on a rainbow-colored electronic cigarette and exhaled leaving behind a faint scent of strawberry and peach. “Strawberry fuzz,” Livezey said when asked about the flavor. Her husband, Bill, on the other hand isn’t a fan. “He doesn’t like it. He’s more into like Belgian cocoa.” The Livesays, started “vaping” about a year ago, and after 20 years of smoking tobacco, haven’t looked back since. The couple on Tuesday opened Knoxville Vapor, at 5201 Kingston Pike in Bearden, dedicated to selling e-cigarettes and accessories.

Many in e-cigarette industry support regulations (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

As dozens of states call for regulations on e-cigarettes, many in the industry support the idea of restrictions on buyer age, advertising, and product ingredients. On Tuesday, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper joined 37 other attorneys general in signing a letter to the Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to being regulating e-cigarettes. That letter cited a number of concerns about the products, which dispense nicotine using vapor, not smoke. The letter asks the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes as “tobacco products” by adding age restrictions, bans on certain child-appealing flavors, and changes to advertising.

Alexander pushes for more time on electronic health records (Nashville Biz Journal)

Sen. Lamar Alexander, the top Republican on the Senate’s health committee, is leading a push to grant hospitals and health care providers more time to comply with Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements, the federal incentive program that rewards providers who demonstrate they are using electronic health records in a “meaningful way.” The Tennessee Republican and 16 of his fellow Senate Republicans have sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius calling for a one-year extension, citing feedback from providers, vendors, and other stakeholders that suggests the timeline is too aggressive.

State Rep. Joshua Evans To Seek Senate Seat (Associated Press)

Tennessee Rep. Joshua Evans announced he will run for the newly formed 25th District seat of the state Senate. Before being elected to the House of Representatives in 2008, the Greenbrier Republican served eight years in local government. He is a small business owner and has served as a volunteer firefighter in Robertson County since 2001. If elected to the Senate, Evans says he will continue to fight for the reduction of taxes, improvement of schools and the creation of jobs.

State Rep. Joshua Evans announces run for Senate (Tennessean/Sisk)

State Rep. Joshua Evans announced Tuesday that he will run for the state Senate. Evans, R-Greenbrier, has entered the race for the 25th Senate District, making him at least one of three Republicans seeking the seat: State Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, now represents the district and has said he will seek re-election, and former state Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, also is running. Evans had been exploring openly a run for the state Senate in the district, which covers Cheatham, Dickson, Hickman, Humphreys and Robertson counties.

Fort Campbell Units Get The Call: You’re Going Back To Afghanistan (WPLN)

The Department of Defense is sending units from Fort Campbell back to Afghanistan. Roughly 4,800 soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division make up a majority of a rotation announced by the Pentagon Tuesday, scheduled to deploy over the winter. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team – nicknamed “Strike” – sent several hundred senior soldiers as advisory teams to train the Afghan military just last year. But this year, 3,000 soldiers are getting the call – most of the brigade. The 159th [one-five-ninth] Combat Aviation Brigade will also fully deploy, sending 1,800 helicopter pilots, crew chiefs and other personnel to Afghanistan.

Tenn. premiums in health overhaul among cheapest (Associated Press)

Average premiums for Tennesseans seeking coverage under new health insurance markets launching next week rank near the lowest among the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead to cover uninsured residents. Before tax credits that work like an up-front discount for most consumers, sticker-price premiums for a mid-range benchmark plan will average $245 a month, well below the national monthly average of $328. Only Minnesota’s average premiums are cheaper, at $192 per month. Premiums under the cheapest plan offered in Tennessee would average $181 per month, the third-lowest rate in the country.

Officials Detail Premium Costs of Health Plan (New York Times)

The Obama administration on Tuesday provided the first detailed look at premiums to be charged to consumers for health insurance in 36 states where the federal government will run new insurance markets starting next week, highlighting costs it said were generally lower than previous estimates. Administration officials released the information, central to their campaign to persuade millions of uninsured Americans to sign up for coverage, even as Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, waged a fierce fight on the Senate floor, risking a government shutdown if necessary to eliminate financing for the expansion of coverage under President Obama’s health care law.

Memphis Recognized for Job Creation (Memphis Daily News)

Memphis is one of only seven cities cited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its public-private relationships focused on spurring innovation, revitalization and job creation. Memphis joins Dayton, Ohio, Irving and San Antonio, Texas, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Sioux Falls, S.D., on the Chamber’s Enterprising City List. The Chamber said each city boasts “enterprise-friendly leadership and policies at the city level” that facilitates “local economic growth by supporting entrepreneurs and mobilizing effective partnerships for improving the conditions for business and job growth.”

Nashville sees rise in tourist spending to $4.61B (Tennessean)

Direct spending by tourists visiting Music City was up 8.5 percent in 2012, according to a study conducted by the US Travel Association. Direct visitor spending rose to $4.61 billion in 2012 compared to $4.25 billion the previous year. The total number of visitors rose to 11.8 million in fiscal year 2013, an increase from 11.2 million the previous year, according to statistics from the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. “These latest figures underscore Nashville’s strength as a destination city and our immense appeal to both the leisure and business traveler,” said Mayor Karl Dean.

S. Pittsburg goes from flooded to floored, aided by Shaw expansion (TFP/Benton)

Shaw Industries Group’s $40 million investment in its South Pittsburg, Tenn., plant is the latest in the company’s efforts to return to early-2000s production and employment levels and the most recent boost to Marion County’s jobs picture. Company officials said Tuesday that the investment will expand production capacity by more than 60 percent and create at least 25 jobs to meet growing demand for Shaw’s “Epic” line of hardwood flooring produced at the facility. The plant now has about 200 employees after adding 65 jobs earlier this year.

VW workers to file federal charges against UAW, group says (TFP/Pare)

Seven workers at Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant are filing federal charges against the United Auto Workers, saying the union misled and coerced them and other employees to forfeit their rights in its card-signing campaign to gain their support, a group said today. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation said its attorneys are to file the charges today with the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in Atlanta. Earlier this month, the UAW said a majority of the plant’s workers had signed cards authorizing the union to represent them.

Metro’s grading system praised for giving students second chances (TN/Wilson)

School officials gave high marks to a newly implemented grading system that prioritizes testing and eliminates zeroes from gradebooks at a Metro Nashville school board work session Tuesday evening. The changes were put in place at the beginning of the school year as part of a push to evaluate students entirely on their comprehension of material outlined in state standards. The policies mandate that students are graded entirely on in-class work, offered the chance to retake an exam twice and are given scores no lower than 50 percent on assignments.

 

OPINION 

Editorial: TN gets in way of health care enrollment (Tennessean)

We’d like to think better of our state government than how it is imposing last-minute regulations on organizations that are working to help uninsured Tennesseans sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Despite assurances from the state Department of Commerce and Insurance that it is thinking only about consumers in Tennessee, the signs are that the state seeks to get in the way of legitimate attempts to help up to half-million or so residents of this state take advantage of the ACA, with just days before the Oct. 1 launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Columnist: The ObamaCare Wars Are Just Starting (Wall Street Journal)

The ObamaCare fight is turning hot and heavy. House Republicans have made an implausible threat to shut down the government to defund ObamaCare, but a plausible motive is to create fear, uncertainty and doubt (which already exists in abundance regarding ObamaCare) during the crucial sign-up period that begins next month. On the flip side, the administration’s last-minute decision not to require income documentation in the first year can only do wonders for enrollment. A handy Kaiser Family Foundation calculator shows how: A single person who estimates his 2014 income as $33,000 would get a measly $6.

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