Press Releases

July 25 TN News Digest

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

Haslam: Big ‘economic development’ announcement coming Friday (News Sentinel)
CLINTON — A major expansion of SL Tennessee LLC, a South Korean auto parts manufacturer that now employs 750 workers in Clinton, will be announced Friday morning by Gov. Bill Haslam. Local officials late Thursday declined to comment on the expansion, keeping details under wraps until Haslam’s announcement. The company has made $50 million in expansions and added 400 workers since 2010, said Anderson County industrial recruiter Tim Thompson. While it supplies gear shifters, parking brakes and lighting products primarily to General Motors, SL Tennessee was the first firm to win a contract from Volkswagen Group in North American to supply parts to the VW plant in Chattanooga.

Haslam coming to Greeneville for announcement on Friday (Greeneville Sun)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will visit Greeneville on Friday, bringing with him the announcement of state grants. Haslam will speak at 2:30 p.m. Friday near Walters State Community College and the Greene County Election Commission Office, off North Main Street. The governor will be announcing Tennessee Department of Transportation and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation grants. The amount and purpose of the grants are unknown. In the event of inclement weather, the event will happen at the General Morgan Inn.

Governor visits Savannah, delivers checks totaling nearly $600,000 (Savannah C.)
Gov. Bill Haslam stopped by Savannah this afternoon to visit the new Tennessee Street Park and announce three grants totaling $585,517 will fund three area projects for the city and Hardin County. A $243,913 transportation alternative grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will fund phase II of the Pedestrian Sidewalk Project in Savannah, including construction of sidewalks on the east side of Tennessee Street from the southwest corner of the new Tennessee Street Park to Main Street.

Haslam talks jobs, growth as he visits region’s mayors (Jackson Sun/Whetstone)
City mayors from West Tennessee met with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in Jackson on Thursday and asked questions about topics ranging from the area’s lagging job creation to the Memphis Regional Megasite located in Haywood County. Haslam was guest speaker for the West Tennessee Mayors Association meeting at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. He said he was optimistic that West Tennessee, and the state as a whole, are moving in the right direction. Jill Holland, mayor of McKenzie and president of the association, said that having Haslam visit and talk to approximately 30 city mayors from West Tennessee was helpful.

Haslam announces first rural veterans cemetery in Tennessee (Jackson Sun/Knoll)
Gov. Bill Haslam announced today that Tennessee will receive its first rural veterans cemetery in Henderson County. Haslam said more than 45,000 veterans in a multi-county area will be served by the 132-acre cemetery, which has been named the Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery at Parkers Crossroads. “We hope (it) will take care of the needs to bury our veterans for the next 150 years,” Haslam said. “It’s the first time we’ve done anything like this in a rural area, and it couldn’t happen in a better place to serve more worthy people.” Swarms of veterans and their families attended the announcement held at the future site of the cemetery.

Veterans cemetery planned at Parkers Crossroads (Paris Post Intelligencer)
A 132-acre site at Parkers Crossroads in Henderson County has been chosen for a new Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder announced today. The 132-acre cemetery will be located at 693 Wildersville Road and will serve more than 45,000 veterans and their families within 17 counties in west Tennessee. In addition to Henry County, the other counties within a 75-mile radius of the proposed cemetery include Benton, Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Decatur, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Lewis, McNairy, Madison, Perry, Wayne and Weakley counties.

Governor Haslam announces new state veterans cemetery (Chattanoogan)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder announced the future site of the fifth state veterans cemetery will be in Parkers Crossroads. The 132-acre Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery at Parkers Crossroads will be located at 693 Wildersville Road and will serve more than 45,000 veterans and their families within 17 counties in west Tennessee. The Tennessee counties within a 75 mile radius of the proposed cemetery include Benton, Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Decatur, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Lewis, McNairy, Madison, Perry, Wayne, and Weakley counties.

New veterans cemetery coming to West TN (WBBJ/video)
HENDERSON COUNTY, Tenn.– A new veterans cemetery will soon open in West Tennessee. Veterans say the new location is the perfect spot because it is halfway between Nashville and Memphis. It also sits near the site of a Civil War battle. “I’ve been bush hogging out here for going on two weeks, try to get it lookin’ better,” James Lindsey said, a veteran. The 132 acre property along Interstate 40 in Henderson County will soon be home to the Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery at Parkers Crossroads. Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder made the announcement Thursday.

Veterans cemetery planned for Parkers Crossroads (Associated Press)
PARKERS CROSSROADS, Tenn. – Tennessee’s next veterans’ cemetery is planned for a location in Parkers Crossroads. Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that the Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery will serve more than 45,000 veterans and their families in 17 West Tennessee counties. The governor said the state has purchased the property and is waiting to hear from the federal government about construction funding. Construction costs are estimated at $5.5 million. Parkers Crossroads is located in Henderson County. It was the site of a Civil War battle on Dec. 31, 1862. The veterans’ cemetery would be the state’s fifth.

ABC Group Inc. to expand Gallatin operations (Lebanon Democrat)
Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, along with ABC Group Inc. officials, announced the company will add an additional 180,000 square feet to its existing Gallatin facility in response to increased demand for automotive related products. ABC Group will invest $25.5 million in land, infrastructure and equipment and create 230 new jobs over the next five years in Sumner County. “We are thankful for ABC Group’s decision to expand its operations in Gallatin and for the more than 200 jobs the company is creating in Sumner County,” Haslam said.

Hensley named to workers’ compensation appeals board (Chattanoogan)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has appointed three Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board judges, all effective Aug. 1, including David Hensley, 60, of Chattanooga. The appointees are Marshall Davidson, 50, of Goodlettsville, who will have a six-year initial term; Mr. Hensley, who will begin with a four-year term; and Tim Conner, 47, of Knoxville, who will have a two-year initial term. “I am pleased to make these appointments, and Tennessee will see a workers’ compensation system that operates with clarity and fairness,” Governor Haslam said.

Unfunded mandates a challenge for schools (Crossville Chronicle)
Director of Schools Donald Andrews has expressed local concerns regarding unfunded state mandates in education to Gov. Bill Haslam in an informal meeting between the governor and area administrators and teachers. “So many times, the legislators, the governor, you put these things in place and intentions are good, but you don’t quite get just how much it’s going to take, not just for the personnel itself, but even the man hours to evaluate and monitor those programs,” Andrews said during a public hearing on the 2014-’15 school system budget held Wednesday.

Haslam to meet selected educators, prompting counter gathering (John. City Press)
What organizers are calling an outdoor gathering Friday in the parking lot of the Washington County School District’s central office is intended to shed light on a closed-door meeting taking place inside between the governor and selected school officials. The meeting is one of 12 planned throughout the state, said Gov. Bill Haslam’s spokesman, Dave Smith, each closed to the public and news media to allow candid discussion between the governor and invited teachers and principals. “The governor wants to hear from those in the room about what’s working and what’s not,” Smith said. “Common Core usually comes up, so do assessments and whatever else is on their minds.”

Emails reveal Haslam to hold private meeting with select educators (WJHL)
Governor Bill Haslam (R) will be in town Friday but at one of his stops the public won’t be invited. In fact, only a select few will be part of a roundtable discussion about education. Emails obtained through a public records request reveal Gov. Haslam will hold a private roundtable Friday afternoon at the Washington County Department of Education in Jonesborough. Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes says his district was asked to host the meeting. “All we’re doing is offering a venue for the Governor’s meeting with nine school districts,” Dykes said. “I…notified the School Board Tuesday that the meeting was going to take place.”

Revised license proposal lacks TN teachers’ union support (Tennessean/Garrison)
A revamped teacher licensing proposal still lacks support from Tennessee’s teachers’ union, the group that led the opposition of the policy it would replace. The Tennessee State Board of Education is set to consider on final reading Friday a proposal that would let teachers bypass some of the required professional development credits to renew professional licenses if they perform well on annual state-mandated evaluations over consecutive years. It would replace a policy the state board has scratched — dictated so by a new law that passed this session — that would have prevented the renewal of teacher licenses because of habitual low evaluation scores.

Volkswagen incentives less than original plant but groups call aid ‘excessive’ (TFP)
Volkswagen isn’t getting as rich of an incentive package for its next 2,000-job expansion as the German auto maker was given by local governments six years ago when it first came to Chattanooga promising an initial 2,000 jobs. But local leaders said Thursday they hope the new VW vehicle line will bear just as much economic fruit, if not more, than the original $1 billion plant announcement. “We’re providing a sizable incentives package — and we wouldn’t have gotten this latest project without it,” Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce President Ron Harr told the Downtown Rotary Club Thursday.

Morristown title loan company under scrutiny by state (Knoxville News Sentinel)
A Morristown pawnshop owner could face a mountain of problems if he is found to have operated for years without a license, meaning all of the loans he made are void and he has to return all the money paid to him on the improper deals. James Floyd Drinnon, who operates LSM Auto Buyers and Money Man Pawn LLC on Buffalo Trail, was the target this month of a cease-and-desist order from the state Department of Financial Institutions. In the July 17 complaint, the state alleges Drinnon has been operating an unlicensed title pledge business since September 2011.

Metro Memphis jobless rates drops to 8.7 percent (Commercial Appeal)
Greater Memphis’ jobless rate edged down in June to 8.7 percent compared with 10 percent a year earlier, state labor officials said Thursday. Despite the closing of the 1,200-employee Harrah’s casino resort, the jobless rate was the lowest for any June since 2008, when the recession was gathering force. While the unemployment rate long has been considered a sign of the local economy getting better or worse, these days the shrinking labor force masks the sign. Fewer people were employed this June — 549,640 residents worked full- and part-time compared with 552,238 residents in June 2013, reported Tennessee’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Unemployment rises in area counties (Chattanooga Times Free Press)
Employers in metropolitan Chattanooga added 670 more workers last month, but those employment gains were more than offset by the addition of 3,070 new entrants into the Chattanooga labor market. As a result, Chattanooga’s jobless rate rose in June to the highest rate since last October. In the 6-county Chattanooga metropolitan area, the jobless rate increased by rose by nine-tenths of a percentage point last month to 7.1 percent. Chattanooga’s rate in June remained below the comparable statewide rate of 7.4 percent but rose above the U.S. rate of 6.3 percent in June.

Conservative group backs Gary Wade in high court fray (Chatt. Times Free Press)
NASHVILLE — A conservative group that led the move to reject former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Penny White in 1996 says it is backing current Supreme Court Justice Gary Wade in the Aug. 7 election. At least four groups and Republican state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey are trying to defeat Wade and fellow Justices Connie Clark and Sharon Lee. But Tennessee Conservative Union Chairman Lloyd Daugherty’s group issued a statement Wednesday decrying partisan politics in the court system. “To allow such undermines the rule of law that is so vital to an orderly and civil society,” the TCU statement said, and added that Daugherty continues to endorse Wade.

Shelby County Democrats call for federal monitors after glitch (Commercial Appeal)
Shelby County Democratic Party chairman Bryan Carson said Thursday he will ask for federal monitors to oversee the county election after a glitch that he claimed caused problems for early voters during the day. But Election Commission chairman Robert Meyers said the problem should not have impacted votes being cast. Meyers said a construction crew dropped a load of rocks over ground near the early voting location at the Agricenter that was on top of a fiber-optic line. The line was used for precincts to access the registration database when voters check in, he said, and the glitch impacted more than just the Agricenter site.

Early voters hitting the polls in Tennessee (Knoxville News Sentinel/Humphrey)
NASHVILLE — Anticipating long lines on Aug. 7 because of the lengthy ballot, state officials are urging Tennesseans to take advantage of early voting prior to election day — and many already have. Through Wednesday, the fifth day of early voting, a total of 189,804 Tennesseans had gone to the polls and cast their ballots, according to the state Division of Elections website. That is about 14.5 percent more than in 2010, the year that Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Mark Goins say is the most comparable year to 2014 in projecting voter turnout.

Conservative Blackburn finds harmony with music industry (Tennessean/Rau)
If Marsha Blackburn were to leave Congress — either by a loss in the upcoming election or some other unforeseen development — the head of the Nashville Songwriters Association International said he would respond as if there were a death in the family. “I’d hang a black wreath on our office and close it for a week,” said NSAI’s Bart Herbison, whose organization promotes the interests of songwriters. For Nashville songwriters and the broader music industry, Blackburn has cemented her status as a rock star. She’s a go-to member of Congress for almost any music-related issue, and those have come up more frequently in Washington D.C. lately.

Cohen: Student loan borrowers should be told of risks (Commercial Appeal)
WASHINGTON — Students who take out loans from federal and private lenders would have to be told of the financial risks of those loans and the difficulty of erasing them in bankruptcy proceedings under legislation U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen is pursuing. Cohen’s legislation, which the House accepted Thursday as an amendment to a broader student loan bill, is designed to make sure borrowers understand their rights and responsibilities when they take out student loans, particularly private loans with high interest rates and fees.

In ad, Mayfield scolds Wamp over secret recording (Chattanooga TFP/Sher)
NASHVILLE — Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is aiming his third straight televised punch at GOP challenger Weston Wamp with a new ad in which both men’s 2012 rival, Scottie Mayfield, directly takes Wamp to task over secretly recording him last spring. In the 30-second spot, airing in the Chattanooga and Knoxville media markets, Mayfield faces the camera, discusses the controversy that publicly erupted last spring and seeks to raise questions about Wamp’s character, trust and “Tennessee values.”




TennCare needs a fix (Commercial Appeal)
With this being an election year and with Gov. Bill Haslam already taking heat for not expanding TennCare, it would be reasonable to think that the governor’s administration would be swinging into high gear to address complaints about the application process for the program. Instead, from his defiant comments, it looks like TennCare director Darrin Gordon is circling the wagons, seemingly inviting the federal lawsuit alleging that the state agency’s practices have illegally denied thousands of Tennesseans access to health care. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Nashville against TennCare by three legal advocacy groups — the National Health Law Program, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Tennessee Justice Center.

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