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May 17 TN News Digest

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

Governor Finishes Promotional Tour Of ‘Tennessee Promise’ Bill Signings (WPLN)
Gov. Bill Haslam signed the “Tennessee Promise” bill into law Friday — for the seventh time. He’s been holding ceremonial signings around the state this week to promote the push for more college graduates. The legislation will let any Tennessee resident attend community college for free. At the final ceremony, the governor asked a group of about 50 students at Overton High School in Nashville how many of them wanted to go to college. Almost all raised their hands. He said he wants to make sure students know Tennessee Promise is an option.

Memorial service honors fallen Tennessee officers (Associated Press)
State troopers and other law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty were honored at a memorial service in Nashville on Friday. The Tennessee Highway Patrol’s annual event was held at the Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s headquarters. Gov. Bill Haslam was joined by Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons and THP Col. Tracy Trott to commemorate 41 state troopers, as well as more than 20,000 officers in the United States, who have died in the line of duty.

Haslam, Gibbons Honor Fallen Tennessee State Troopers at Memorial Service (CO)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today delivered the keynote address at the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s annual memorial service to honor state troopers and other law enforcement officer’s killed in the line of duty. The special ceremony, held in conjunction with National Police Week, took place at the Department of Safety and Homeland Security headquarters in Nashville. Commissioner Bill Gibbons, Colonel Tracy Trott and family members of fallen troopers were also on hand for the ceremony. Forty-one troopers have died in the line of duty since the establishment of the state’s Highway Patrol in 1929.

Tennessee Highway Patrol holds memorial service for fallen officers (WKRN-TV)
Family and comrades of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty gathered to pay their respects at the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s annual memorial service Friday. Taps echoed through the grounds as state troopers and other law enforcement officers were remembered. The names of 41 Tennessee State Troopers who have died in the line of duty since the THP was established in 1929 were read. State leaders joined legislators, family and friends of survivors of fallen officers.

PARCC Testing Delay Gets Haslam’s Signature (TN Report)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a measure passed by the General Assembly that would put off state implementation of a math-and-English testing program affiliated with the Common Core State Standards. The governor made the bill a law on Wednesday. Under the terms of a legislative agreement reached in conference committee between the House and Senate last month, schools won’t begin subjecting students to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers until 2015-16. Instead, the state will continue using the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, or TCAP.

Haslam signs hemp bill into law, despite Kentucky dispute (N-S/Humphrey)
Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law a bill that legalizes the growing of hemp in Tennessee while Kentucky officials are battling the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in federal court over a dispute brought on by similar law enacted in that state. Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, lead sponsor of the Tennessee hemp bill in the state Senate, said he is hopeful that Tennessee will avoid any conflict with federal authorities, perhaps because of Kentucky succeeding in court. But Niceley also said he fears the move against Kentucky shows “the Obama administration has a double standard,” retreating from enforcement of federal laws prohibiting marijuana in states that have legalized sales while enforcing the law against hemp.

Governor Haslam proclaims May 17 Armed Forces Day (Leaf Chronicle)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and state Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder today announced May 17, 2014 is Armed Forces Day. The single day celebration was created to signify the unification of the Armed Forces under one federal department; the Department of Defense. President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for Americans to come together and thank our troops for their patriotic service in support of our country. On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of Armed Forces Day to replace separate days to honor the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force.

6 injured in explosion at Tennessee steel mill (Associated Press)
Investigators on Friday tried to determine what caused an explosion at a Knoxville, Tennessee, steel mill that injured six workers and could be heard by residents from blocks away. One worker was critically burned in the Thursday night explosion at Gerdau Ameristeel Mill, which uses an electric arc furnace to turn scrap metal into steel, in north Knoxville and was being treated at a regional burn center, the company said in a statement. Five others injured workers had been treated and released from a local hospital. The names of the victims had not been released. Officials with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration said they were still investigating the cause.

Rudd takes office amid U of M budget challenges (Commercial Appeal/Backer)
Former University of Memphis provost M. David Rudd on Friday became the institution’s 12th president, just as the school’s $478 million operating budget faces a $20 million gap due to slumping enrollment, declining funding from the state and the end of federal stimulus funds. Rudd has pledged to double external research funding from about $50 million to $100 million over a 10-year period, and hopes to boost enrollment, retention and graduation rates, and to adopt a new budget model. He succeeds interim president R. Brad Martin, who took over for a year after the retirement of Shirley Raines.

Steve Maroney a finalist for appeals court (Jackson Sun)
The wait was worth the while for Steve Maroney, who was selected Friday as one of three nominees Gov. Bill Haslam will consider for a vacant judge’s seat on the state Court of Appeals. Maroney joins Kenny Armstrong and Oscar Carr III as finalists to fill the seat vacated by Holly M. Kirby after her appointment to the Tennessee Supreme Court, effective Sept. 1. Maroney, a Jackson lawyer, currently serves as the attorney for Madison County government. Armstrong, a chancellor, and Carr, an attorney, both reside in Shelby County. The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments selected the three from a pool of eight applicants after interviewing the candidates and listening to public comments Friday in Memphis.

Tom Ingram shares his insights on Gov. Haslam’s management style (NBJ)
Tom Ingram, head of The Ingram Group, has worked closely with both Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. I sat down with Ingram earlier this week. Among a variety of topics, we touched upon Haslam’s style as Tennessee’s top executive. Ingram formerly served as chief of staff while Alexander was governor and is currently a general political adviser to Haslam. So how does Haslam approach the job differently than Alexander and others before him? “If Lamar saw a roadblock out there he would step back and be very strategic about approaching the roadblock,” Ingram said. “When Bill sees a roadblock, he just takes it head on and works his way through it until it falls.”

Tom Ingram on Haslam’s challenges in managing Republican dissent (NBJ)
Tom Ingram, the head of The Ingram Group and an advisor to Gov. Bill Haslam, said Tennessee’s political environment puts the governor in a much different position than the state’s past executives. While Haslam’s Republican Party maintains a large majority in the General Assembly, Ingram notes members of the party cover a wide range on the political spectrum – from moderate to conservative. Push back to an agenda may have previously come from the opposing party, Ingram said. Today, though, the governor has to deal with disagreement within his own party.

TN Commissioner Offers Congrats For ‘Rigged’ Re-election (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Congratulations on your rigged election! That’s the message that critics say a member of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s cabinet sent with his letter to a foreign president. Few people took last fall’s Azerbaijani presidential elections seriously. The re-election of Ilham Aliyev — who took over from his own father a decade ago — was widely seen by the international community as rigged. Still, that did not stop Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security Bill Gibbons from sending a letter on official stationery to Aliyev, offering a hardy “congratulations on your re-election!” “That was a fake election, that wasn’t real election,” said Armenian activist Barry Barsoumian.

Alexander, Corker ask VA for details on Memphis hospital changes (CA/Collins)
Tennessee’s two U.S. senators want to know what changes have been made at the Memphis VA Medical Center following an inspector general’s report last fall that three patients died in the facility’s emergency department after receiving inadequate care. Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Maryville and Bob Corker of Chattanooga sent a letter Thursday to Robert A. Petzel, the Veterans Affairs Department’s undersecretary for health, requesting an update on the implementation of recommendations made in the inspector general’s report.

Auto parts maker adding 30 in Hendersonville (Nashville Post)
A manufacturer of automotive electronics and lighting systems is investing more than $3 million to relocate and expand its Hendersonville operations and hire about 30 workers. Novità Technologies designs and makes on-board lighting systems for original equipment manufacturers and aftermarket use. The company was formed in 2007 when Trico Electronics was spun off from the Trico Products Group and now about 50 people. The company had been based on Molly Walton Drive but is in relocating to Old Shackle Island Road about three miles to the east.

UAW, VW deny election agreement was illegal (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Pare)
The United Auto Workers is seeking dismissal of a suit that claimed Volkswagen gave the union access to names and facilities at the Chattanooga plant in exchange for the UAW holding down costs if it won the organizing vote at the factory. The UAW and Volkswagen, which were both sued in federal court by three VW employees, on Friday denied in court papers that an election agreement signed by the union and the automaker before the February vote was illegal. UAW attorneys said the agreement didn’t violate federal labor law because “courts and the National Labor Relations Board have long upheld and enforced labor-management agreements including the very type of agreement terms … challenged here.”

Loss of state funding for Knox schools questioned (Knox News-Sentinel/McCoy)
The Tennessee Department of Education pointed to the advisory commission. The advisory commission directed back to the state. And somewhere in the web is the answer to how exactly Knox County Schools lost $2.9 million in annual BEP funding — from about $3.4 million to less than $500,000 — from April to May. The Department of Education calculates the formula based on numbers it receives from the University of Tennessee’s Center for Business and Economic Research and the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations commonly referred to as TACIR.

Hamilton County students come from all over, shifting demographics (TFP/Hardy)
It’s not just black and white anymore. In Hamilton County Schools, the makeup of classrooms is changing rapidly. While the share of black students hasn’t changed in 15 years, the number of minority students is booming. No longer do teachers look out and see almost exclusively African-Americans and Caucasians. There are now students from Bosnia, South Sudan and Vietnam, among dozens of other nations. But much of the change is driven by Hispanic and Latino students. In 2000, the school district was about 65 percent white. Now it’s 58 percent white. Fifteen years ago, fewer than 500 Hispanic or Latino students attended school in Hamilton County, according to school system records. Now more than 3,700 are enrolled.

 

OPINION

Editorial: TVA landfill plan appears too risky (Tennessean)
The more we know about the coal-ash landfill that the Tennessee Valley Authority proposes in Sumner County, the less we like it. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation tentatively granted a permit to TVA earlier this year for the Class II landfill, which would be the repository for coal ash generated by TVA’s Gallatin Fossil Plant. The power plant’s discarded ash currently is pumped into an onsite wet storage pond. As we know too well from the 2008 Kingston disaster, turning toxic ash into sludge is extremely unstable TVA has a hard task ahead of it, as it slowly moves away from coal-burning as a dirty source of power generation. “Dry” storage of fly ash may well be a safer method of disposal, but in pursuing this goal, the utility must not undercut larger safety concerns — and there is a strong possibility that this landfill proposal would do just that.

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