This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed a law enforcement veteran to the state’s Board of Parole. Gary M. Faulcon spent 25 years with the Nashville Police Department. During that time, he was assigned to various divisions including background and recruitment, criminal investigations, vice and the special weapons and tactics team. He was also commander of the bomb squad. Haslam believes Faulcon’s background in criminal justice will be an asset to the board. Faulcon’s appointment became effective on Monday and will continue through Dec. 31, 2017.
Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday that he has appointed an area law enforcement veteran to the Tennessee Board of Parole. Gary M. Faulcon, of Nashville, spent 25 years with the the Metro Nashville Police Department, most recently as commander of the Bomb Squad. “Mr. Faulcon’s extensive background in criminal justice will be a tremendous asset to the state,” Haslam said in a press release. “I am grateful he is willing to share that experience as a member of the Board of Parole.”
Norman Smith Elementary School brought home a $10,000 prize Monday night for having the most dramatically improved student achievement among elementary schools in the state of Tennessee. The school competed against two other elementary school finalists for the third annual State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) awards. “I am inspired by our teachers and administrators for their commitment and dedication to helping every child be successful,” said Clarksville-Montgomery County Director of Schools B.J. Worthington in prepared comments.
Tennessee teachers view the state’s new evaluation procedure more favorably now than when implemented, a recent survey from Vanderbilt’s Peabody College suggests. The study found teachers are more receptive to classroom evaluations when they see them as a tool for improving teaching, not as just a way to judge performance. “Teachers who viewed the evaluation process as focused on teaching improvement tended to engage with the system to a far greater extent than teachers who saw the process as one aimed only at judging their performance,” said Nate Schwartz, director of the Tennessee Department of Education’s Office of Research and Policy.
New standards allow students to do math more than one way Editor’s note: Common Core State Standards are being implemented in every Tennessee math and English Language Arts (ELA) course in grades K-12 this fall. This series of stories asks, “What is Common Core, and what does it mean for your child?” Today we look at the standards in math. “Horace Hanson is the catcher for the Humboldt Bees baseball team. Sneaky Sally Smith, the star of the Canfield Cats, is on first base. Sally is known for stealing bases, so Horace is keeping an eye on her.
Freshmen at the University of Tennessee this fall are averaging the most strenuous course load in recent memory — roughly 15.1 credit hours each. Officials credit the rise to a new tuition model that charges new full-time students for 15 credit hours instead of 12, the previous standard. “The fact that students were motivated to take the 15 (hours) and we were able to make sure they got 15 (hours) is a good sign,” said Sally McMillan,vice provost for academic affairs.
As Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration prepares to evaluate budget requests from each of its departments, the state could be looking at something of a budget crunch. Although the state only has data for two months into its budget cycle, revenues are so far $83.3 million below expectations. “We are somewhat concerned about the slowing growth of the revenue and our key revenue stream is our sales tax and so we’re watching that closely,” said Larry Martin, state finance commissioner. State agency leaders plan to begin pitching budget plans to the governor next month.
Tennesseans can now download Ready TN, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency’s popular smartphone preparedness application, to iPhone and iPad devices and access the application’s information and resources on hazards and how to be ready for emergencies. “It is incredibly important Tennesseans take time to prepare for emergencies, and this new app from TEMA is designed to be responsive to our customers, the taxpayers,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said.
Repair work on an Interstate 40 bridge in downtown Nashville will close all lanes of the highway and require motorists to detour Friday night through early Monday morning. The Tennessee Department of Transportation said a portion of I-40 will be closed while crews replace a 200-foot stretch of concrete that’s part of a bridge over Charlotte Avenue at mile marker 209. The stretch of interstate is between the Church Street and Jefferson Street exits. Charlotte Avenue also will be closed in both directions, as will be the westbound ramps to I-40 at Broadway Avenue and Church Street.
Memphis native and PandoDaily founder Sarah Lacy will partner with Launch Tennessee to produce the 2014 installment of the entrepreneurship and technology Southland Conference, which will be held in Nashville from June 9-11. Lacy, who raised more than $2 million in investment funding for her online news site PandoDaily, will lend her expertise to the second annual regional event that is expected to draw hundreds of tech startup founders and creative to Tennessee. Nearly 700 attended the initial conference that was held earlier this year. “
Tennessee lawmakers are planning a hearing on the panel that vets textbooks for use in public schools. The Senate’s education and government operations committees are scheduled to hold two days of joint hearings on the Tennessee Textbook Commission beginning on Monday. Republican Senate Education Chairwoman Dolores Gresham of Somerville said in a release that she wants to avoid what she called “indoctrination” in school textbooks. The 10-member textbook selection panel recommends its selections to the State Board of Education.
Tennessee lawmakers are set Tuesday morning to discuss punishing moms whose addiction hurts their newborn child.More than 700 babies have been born this year in Tennessee with a painful, drug-dependent condition (PDF here), as in this video from the Department of Health. This spring lawmakers passed a “safe-harbor” law to coax addicted mothers into rehab, with the assurance then the state won’t take their baby away. But others have advocated a tougher approach – one that would charge pregnant moms taking drugs illegally with assault, or possibly homicide if the child dies.
The Cleveland City Council has agreed to amend a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement linked to a $90 million expansion of the city’s Mars Chocolate facility. On Monday, the City Council voted 7-0 to incorporate $10 million in capital improvements into a tax incentive agreement that originally called for the company to invest $67 million at the site, which has grown by $23 million. The $10 million has been allocated to upgrades to the Twix production line, air conditioning systems and water supply lines taking place through December 2014, said Doug Berry, vice president of economic development for the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
Democrat Terry Adams has announced he will run for the U.S. Senate next year. Adams is a Navy veteran and a Knoxville attorney. He said in a release Monday that his campaign will seek to capitalize on infighting within the Republican Party, where state Rep. Joe Carr is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander for the nomination. Adams’ campaign treasurer is Nashville attorney Bob Tuke, a former state Democratic Party chairman who unsuccessfully ran against Alexander in 2008. Others who have announced for the race include Democrat Larry Crim and Republican Brenda Lenard.
Calling Congress “broken,” Knoxville attorney Terry Adams says he has filed to run as a Democrat in the 2014 U.S. Senate race. “After getting strong encouragement from a wide range of people around Tennessee, I have decided to enter this race,” the Navy veteran and entrepreneur said in a news release. “We think the time is right for someone with a unique profile to run and win this seat and to serve Tennessee.” Adams said, “Washington is broken, and we are not going to fix it by sending back the same people responsible for breaking it in the first place.”
The Army has announced that it will discontinue ROTC programs at three Tennessee universities. The officer-training programs at Tennessee Tech University, East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee Martin are among 13 programs in the nation that the U.S. Department of Defense is closing. Nationwide, more than 1,300 universities train about 33,000 ROTC cadets. The Army recently announced the closures as part of a broader push to update the ROTC training program and diversify recruiting.
The Pentagon is cutting low-performing ROTC programs. And the ax is falling harder in Tennessee than any other state. Of the 13 college-based officer training units announced this month to be closed, three are at public universities in Tennessee – UT Martin, East Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech. “I was freaking out because I had this all planned out,” TTU student Daniel McGee of Lynchburg says. McGee is studying to be a civil engineer in Cookeville. His arrangement with the military pays for his tuition, room and board. He also gets a monthly stipend.
Beginning Friday, some 1.3 million low-income Tennessee men, women and children, including an estimated 50,000 military veterans, will see a cut in food stamps as the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s temporary benefit boost ends Nov. 1. The state’s Department of Human Services says the reductions are caused by the end of the federal government’s short-term boost in monthly Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits during the recession. A Tennessee family of four receiving the maximum allotment will see their monthly SNAP benefit cut 5.4 percent or $36, going from $668 to $632, according to the Tennessee Department of Human Services.
The buying power of food stamps for the more than 1.3 million Tennesseans who receive them drops next month when enhanced benefits that began 4½ years ago under the federal economic stimulus act come to an end. The state Department of Human Services said Monday that a family of four receiving the maximum allowable monthly benefit will see a $36 decrease, or 5.4 percent, in their November allotment — to $632. That’s the maximum monthly benefit. The average monthly allotment for the 133,311 Shelby County households (covering 266,684 people) enrolled in the program in September was $285.
With chronic problems crippling the federal health care website, local counselors and insurance brokers say they are holding off on their efforts to enroll people in insurance plans through the site until late November. That’s when federal officials have pledged to fix HealthCare.gov, the online insurance marketplace that is supposed to be the portal for people to shop for coverage in 36 states, including Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. October was supposed to be a month of momentum for the new site, which is a core feature of President Barack Obama’s health care law. Chattanooga-area offices tasked with helping people enroll on the site have instead spent the month on informational meetings and outreach, some even resorting to sending in paper applications via snail mail.
Soon after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence posted a statement on Facebook expressing disappointment in the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, a long string of comments affirming his support for “traditional marriage” appeared. What was missing: Comments from people who disagreed with his position, which were promptly being deleted. “His staff tried to make it look like he was living in an echo chamber and everyone in Indiana agreed with him,” said Andrew Markle, who, like the governor, is a Republican.
As the Tennessee Valley Authority cranks up the 18-month processes to decide how it will generate power for the next 20 years, officials say renewable energy — namely wind — will play a big role. Environmental groups say renewables are a great move, but the utility also needs to use energy more efficiently before it tries generating more. TVA spokesman Mike Bradley said Monday at the authority’s Buffalo Mountain Wind Farm in Oliver Springs, Tenn., that after buying more than 1,500 megawatts of energy from wind farms in the Midwest — and once construction at Watt’s Bar nuclear plant is complete — more than half of the authority’s power production will come from noncarbon-producing sources.
TVA, which recently launched an update of its long-range energy resource plan, has been showcasing its investment in renewable energy with tours of its Buffalo Mountain Wind Farm. The tours — taking place Monday and today — give local officials, TVA distributors and others a chance to see one of TVA’s least visited energy resources — the 18 wind turbines atop Buffalo Mountain near Oliver Springs, said TVA spokesman Mike Bradley. The wind farm is part of what the Tennessee Valley Authority considers its carbon-free energy package, said Patty West, TVA director of Renewable Energy.
Project Lincoln is a secret. This is what’s known so far: a company is talking about bringing jobs to Memphis. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton confirmed that Friday, but wouldn’t say much more. “Obviously, in this field, folks who kiss and tell don’t do well,” he said. “I can’t kiss and tell, because we won’t do well.” He added that “it’s significant” and that officials will release more information “fairly soon.” Wharton’s statement offers a small glimpse into a corporate recruitment game that often takes place behind closed doors.
The Shelby County Schools board voted to move forward with a plan to divide up school buildings that inflamed Germantown residents who packed the board auditorium Monday night. The resolution requires the superintendent to begin negotiating 40-year leases on 18 schools, including three in the heart of Germantown. The leases are to include a prorated investment to the district’s teacher retirement and insurance expense, and include any other costs associated with formation new school districts in six suburban municipalities.
None of the local or regional schools or systems that were finalists for the 2013 SCORE prize won Monday night. Kingsport City Schools was in the school district category, but it and the Greeneville system lost to Trousdale County in West Tennessee. Two other local finalists, Mount Carmel and McPheeters Bend elementary schools in the Hawkins County school system, did not win in the elementary school category, and two Knoxville area high schools lost in the high school category. Norman Smith Elementary in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School District in Middle Tennessee won in the elementary category.
In his grand Statehouse office beneath a bust of Lincoln, Gov. John R. Kasich let loose on fellow Republicans in Washington. “I’m concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor,” he said, sitting at the head of a burnished table as members of his cabinet lingered after a meeting. “That if you’re poor, somehow you’re shiftless and lazy.” “You know what?” he said. “The very people who complain ought to ask their grandparents if they worked at the W.P.A.” Ever since Republicans in Congress shut down the federal government in an attempt to remove funding for President Obama’s health care law, Republican governors have been trying to distance themselves from Washington.
After nearly five years of zero executions, Tennessee has resumed its death penalty system, announcing plans to execute one man in January and another in April. Like most states, Tennessee uses lethal injection as its primary method of execution. A prisoner is led into the execution chamber before a small group of witnesses. He or she is then strapped down by restraints to a gurney while an IV is started in one arm, and then the other, in case of malfunction in the first. Then, after giving the prisoner a chance to speak his or her final words, officials inject a three-drug cocktail into the prisoner’s arm.
The Knoxville City Council could help drive the train of economic development by approving a four-year tax incentive Tuesday for a growing locomotive shop. Knoxville Locomotive Works is asking for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement so it can expand its North Knoxville engine plant. A wholly-owned subsidiary of Knoxville businessman Pete Claussen’s Gulf & Ohio Railways, the company expects to more than triple its output as the result of new federal emissions regulations for train engines. The expansion eventually should result in nearly 200 new manufacturing jobs in the middle of the city.