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July 26 TN News Digest

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

Haslam: Clinton plant to add 1,000 jobs (Knoxville News Sentinel)
CLINTON — Automotive parts manufacturer SL Tennessee LLC, which now employs 750 workers in Clinton, will invest $80.5 million and create 1,000 jobs in Anderson County, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Friday. The South Korean company will construct a new 250,000-square-foot building to join its two existing facilities in the Clinton/I-75 Industrial Park, Haslam said during a news conference. “I want to congratulate SL Tennessee on its latest expansion and thank the company for the 1,000 new jobs created in Clinton,” Haslam said in prepared remarks.

Haslam announces 1,000 new jobs coming to Anderson County plant (WATE)
CLINTON – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam was in Anderson County Friday morning to announce that SL Tennessee is adding 1,000 new jobs. Auto parts supplier SL America will add 1,000 jobs in a $80.5 million expansion at its SL Tennessee LLC plant in Clinton. The $80.5 million will also add an additional 250,000 square feet to the company’s existing facility. SL Tennessee is a parts supplier for Volkswagen, General Motors, Hyundai and KMG. The current facility operates in the Interstate 75 Industrial Park, building automotive parts including gear shifters, parking brakes and lighting products. In 2001, SL Tennessee became the first Korean-owned automobile parts manufacturer in the Volunteer State when the Clinton facility opened.

1,000 new jobs coming to Clinton automotive plant (WBIR)
An automotive parts manufacturer announced Friday that it plans to invest $80.5 million to build its third manufacturing facility in Anderson County, which will create 1,000 jobs. SL Tennessee, LLC said it will construct a new 250,000 square-foot building to join its two existing facilities in the Clinton/I-75 Industrial Park. The South Korean automotive parts manufacturer has had a facility in Clinton since 2001, and this will be the company’s fifth expansion. Governor Bill Haslam said the expansion says a lot about the work environment in East Tennessee.

Korean auto suppliers add over 1,000 jobs in E. Tennessee, NW Georgia (AP/TFP)
A pair of South Korean auto suppliers are making big bets with new investments creating more than 1,000 jobs. Parts manufacturer SL Tennessee LLC will invest $80.5 million and create 1,000 jobs in Anderson County, Tenn., Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday. Last week, LG Hausys broke ground on a new production plant in Gordon County, where it is investing $40 million with plans to hire 50 people. Also last week, Volkswagen unveiled plans to create 2,000 more jobs at its Chattanooga assembly plant to start assembly of a new sport utility vehicle by late 2016.

Governor brings grants (Greenevile Sun)
Gov. Bill Haslam came bearing gifts Friday afternoon during a brief visit to Greeneville. Haslam announced more than $1.3 million in grants, with the Walters State Community College expansion project here as a dramatic backdrop. A $1 million Transportation Alternative grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will fund Phase I of the Walters State Community College Pedestrian Facilities Project in downtown Greeneville, near the intersection of North Main Street and Tusculum Boulevard. New walkways will connect the Monumental entrance (the main, arched entrance to the expanded campus), the North Main Street entrance, the campus amphitheater, the Greeneville Historical Walkway, and sidewalks outside the campus, Haslam said.

More than $1.3 million in grants going toward Greene Co. projects (WJHL)
GREENE COUNTY, TN – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced while visiting the area Friday that Greene County will receive more than $1.3 million in Tennessee Department of Transportation and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation grants. According to a news release from Haslam’s office, the $1.3 million in grants will go toward making downtown Greeneville and Walters State Community College more pedestrian friendly, to improving energy efficiency in Greeneville’s Municipal Solid Waste Division with the purchase of a hybrid-automated garbage truck and to convert the East View pool into a splash pad.

Haslam says he was not told of unaccompanied minors (Tennessean/Sisk)
Gov. Bill Haslam says in a letter to President Barack Obama that his administration should have been informed about the placement of 760 unaccompanied minors in Tennessee. The Republican governor complains in a letter released Friday that the Department of Health and Human Services did not tell officials in Tennessee directly that unaccompanied immigrant children had been released into the custody of sponsors living in the state. Instead, they learned of the minors through a posting on the HHS website, a practice that Haslam said was “unacceptable.”

Haslam writes White House for answers on 760 immigrant children (CA/Locker)
NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam fired off a letter to President Obama late Friday expressing his concern that 760 unaccompanied immigrant children who crossed the Texas border from Central America have been sent to Tennessee “and the failure of the federal government to notify states” where the children have been sent. Haslam said state officials learned that the children have been sent to sponsors in Tennessee via a posting on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website — less than two weeks after the nation’s governors told HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell at the national governors conference in Nashville that they need to be kept informed of any children being relocated to their states.

Haslam sends letter regarding child immigrants (Associated Press)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee has received about 2.5 percent of the unaccompanied children crossing into the United States. Gov. Bill Haslam released a public letter Friday to President Barack Obama in which he takes issue with the development. “It is unacceptable that we became aware via a posting on the HHS website that 760 unaccompanied children have been released by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to sponsors in Tennessee without my administration’s knowledge,” he writes.

760 children from border sent to Tennessee (WREG-Memphis)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Governor Bill Haslam wants to know why 760 unaccompanied minors, who crossed the border illegally, were sent to Tennessee without the state being told. Friday, Haslam sent a letter to President Obama, saying, “Not only was our state not informed prior to any of the children being brought here, I still have not been contacted and have no information about these individuals or their sponsors other than what was posted on the HHS website and subsequently reported by media.” More than 30,000 minors, with an average age of 15, have been sent to numerous states. It’s estimated as many as 120,000 more minors could cross the border illegally if the trend continues.

Governor Haslam, UT President speak at Milan No-Till Field Day (Delta Farm Press)
Tennessee farmers are continuing to use no-till or reduced-till practices on the lion’s share of their acres, and they are setting an example for many other growers to follow, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said. Haslam, the main speaker at a VIP Breakfast that kicked off this year’s Milan, Tenn., No-Till Field Day Thursday (July 24), cited figures showing that Tennessee farmers planted slightly more than 70 percent of their acres no-till in 2014. Noting that no-till started in Tennessee at the Milan Research Station, Haslam said, “Now 70 percent of all row crops are grown in that fashion. That talks about a great result from a very specific objective that we had here. I want to congratulate the UT Institute of Agriculture and the Research Center here for the difference it has made not only in Tennessee but across the country.”

Franklin County receives nearly $500,000 in grants (Winchester Herald Chronicle)
Christmas might be five months away, but it came early to Winchester, Decherd, Franklin County and Tims Ford State Park Monday when Gov. Bill Haslam announced that they are getting nearly a combined $500,000 in Tennessee grant money. The funds are being appropriated through the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, and the money will go toward revitalizing Winchester’s downtown area, lighting Decherd’s Babe Ruth Field, providing a Farmer’s Market pavilion, and improving Tims Ford’s walking trails and shoreline areas.

Haslam announces new state veterans cemetery (Clarksville Leaf Chronicle)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder announced this week 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.

Core concerns: Legislators, educators gather, Haslam meets with school staff (JCP)
Trust, and the lack thereof, was the topic of concern Friday afternoon among a group of teachers, legislators and a school board member gathered outside the Washington County School District central office before Gov. Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman arrived for a closed-door meeting with hand-picked school personnel. The group, concerned that Common Core and other education reforms were being planned out without input from all stakeholders in the education system, held an outdoor press conference in the Jonesborough school administration building’s parking lot to call for openness and transparency from the officials.

Teachers upset at being shut out of Governor Haslam’s education meeting (WCYB)
JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. – Some teachers are concerned over the direction of education in Tennessee, and disappointed more were not included in Governor Bill Haslam’s closed meetings with select educators. Governor Haslam was in Washington County Friday for that purpose. Teachers gathered in the parking lot of the Washington County Department of Education to voice their issue with these meetings. “The future is too important for a select few to determine the best course for education,” said Jack Leonard, who sits on the Washington County Tennessee Board of Education. Leonard was not invited to the Governor’s meeting.

Local educators protest governor’s closed-door meeting (WJHL)
JONESBOROUGH, TN – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam hosted a closed-door meeting in the Tri-Cities Friday to discuss the state’s education agenda. Haslam said this is just one of about a dozen meetings across the state.
Only those invited were allowed inside at the Washington County School District’s central office in Jonesborough. The governor talked with a select group of school directors, principals, and teachers. But the lack of invitation didn’t stop a group from gathering outside the meeting in protest. Teachers, school board members, and state representatives gathered to protest what they called a lack of transparency.

Governor holds private meetings with educators across East Tennessee (WATE)
MORRISTOWN – Governor Bill Haslam and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman met with educators behind closed doors across East Tennessee Friday. The meetings were closed to the public and to the media and were a chance for a select number of superintendents and teachers to have a roundtable discussion on the current state of education. Superintendents from nine school districts were invited to Hamblen County for the private meeting. “The great part about the small meeting is the fact that we were able to be just open and honest. I felt the governor encourages that in us,” said Rhonda Winston, a principal at Rogersville City Schools.

TN State Board of Education head Gary Nixon announces retirement (Tennessean)
Gary Nixon, executive director of the Tennessee State Board of Education for the past 10 years, told board members Friday he is retiring at the end of this year. The 66-year-old Nixon, a former principal, teacher and Smithville native who has led the state board’s office during major changes in education policy in Tennessee, said that the “decision has really been heavy on my heart,” but that after 44-plus years in education, it is time. “Just remember: You’re the glue that holds together all the pieces of school improvement,” Nixon told the state board at the conclusion of Friday’s meeting.

Haslam appoints Johnson to state board of education (Commercial Appeal)
Cato Johnson, senior vice president at Methodist Healthcare, has been appointed to the Tennessee State board of education, the body that sets policy for how K-12 public schools are run in the state. Johnson, 66, represents the eighth congressional district, filling the seat vacated by Melvin Wright from Jackson, Tenn. Johnson is the second Memphian on the board. Teresa Sloyan, executive director of the Hyde Family Foundations, represents the ninth congressional district. All appointments are made by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly. “We need to do everything we can as it relates to student achievement.

Huffman weighed shutting down embattled Tenn. Virtual Academy (Tennessean)
In a standoff over a struggling statewide cyber school, Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman says he weighed pulling the plug altogether. Instead, at his urging, the next incoming class of new students at Tennessee Virtual Academy won’t be admitted — an action that has nevertheless put an education chief known for favoring school choice under unfamiliar fire from national reform groups. The move to “un-enroll” 626 incoming students marks the boldest action yet in what has been a turbulent three years for the online virtual school operated by the for-profit K12 Inc., which has produced woeful test scores every year in Tennessee since a change in law paved the way for its 2011 arrival.

Cursive writing standards in the works for Tennessee schools (Tennessean)
Cursive handwriting is making a comeback in Tennessee, with performance benchmarks in the works to guide the teaching of the fading art to students. Proposed cursive standards that would begin in second grade, accelerate through third grade and finish in fourth grade received preliminary approval Friday from the Tennessee State Board of Education. The model will now be shared with Tennessee teachers, principals and other educators before the board takes up the policy for a final time in October.

Yager joins with Haslam in drug abuse fight (Independent Herald)
NASHVILLE — State Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) recently participated in a Knoxville roundtable discussion with Governor Bill Haslam, Commissioner Douglas Varney and other health care leaders regarding the widespread epidemic of prescription drug abuse in Tennessee. Yager is the prime sponsor of several prescription drug abuse reform laws passed during the last four years, including major legislation to curb opiate misuse at pain clinics. The meeting was part of Gov. Haslam’s “Prescription for Success” initiative launched last month to prevent and treat prescription drug abuse.

USA flag stolen from 102-year-old veteran replaced (WBIR)
Greeneville – A 102-year-old veteran whose flag was stolen from his Greeneville home now has a new set of stars and stripes to salute. Earlier this week, WBIR reported on the theft of a special American flag from World War II veteran Charles Kayhart. The flag was given to Kayhart by Governor Bill Haslam and was flown above the State Capitol in Nashville. “It broke my heart, really,” said Kayhart about the flag’s theft. “That flag was very dear to me.” The Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs learned of the stolen flag and sprang into action this week to get Kayhart an exact replacement. Friday marked a banner day for Kayhart as he was able to raise his new banner of freedom.

Justices fight to retain seats (The Mountain Press)
Tennessee state politics have taken an unusual turn, as one of the most heated races involves not the governor or seats in the U.S. Senate, but the up or down vote for Supreme Court justices, including Sevier County native and current Chief Justice Gary Wade. The five members of the state’s Supreme Court are appointed by the governor and are subject to a retention vote every eight years. With no opponents for the justices, the retention votes are usually an afterthought for most voters. This year, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and several groups have launched a campaign aimed at getting voters to opt against retention for Wade, Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee.

Knoxville, Farragut have enough signatures for wine vote (Knoxville News Sentinel)
Enough signatures have been received that Knoxville and Farragut will be able to hold referendums in November on wine sales in retail food stores, according to the Knox County Election Commission. For Knoxville, 3,377 valid signatures were required to put the measure on the ballot, and the election commission staff stopped counting at 3,445, Deputy Administrator Linda Colquitt said Friday. Earlier in the week, the staff stopped counting after logging 800 valid signatures with 782 signatures required to put the issue on the ballot in Farragut, she said. “We will begin counting the Knox County signatures Monday,” she said.

Wine in grocery stores issue to appear on November ballots in Knoxville (WATE)
KNOXVILLE – Knox County election officials say enough signatures have been collected to allow Knoxville city voters to decide whether to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores this November. Cliff Rodgers, the Knox County administrator of elections, said more than the 3,377 signatures needed were obtained. Election officials in Anderson County say enough signatures have also been collected to place the referendum on November ballots in Clinton and Oak Ridge as well. Gov. Bill Haslam signed a law earlier this year allowing big box retailers in communities that already allow liquor by the drink and liquor stores can now start selling wine.

Walters State leading Tennessee in ‘flipping’ classrooms (WATE)
MORRISTOWN – You may be familiar with the term “flipping” when it comes to homes, but now it’s being applied to the classroom. Teachers are getting rid of pretty much everything other than iPads and tablets. Educators from colleges and universities across the state gathered at Walters State Community College in Morristown Friday to discuss the mobilization of classrooms. Assistant Professor of Education Darlene Smith has been instrumental in the process of flipping classrooms. “You are taking something that needs updating, because the classroom does not look the same anymore,” said Smith.

New map shakes up earthquake ratings as Tennessee joins states at risk (TFP)
East Tennessee got a lot more colorful on the national seismic hazard map between 2008 and 2014. More color signifies a higher earthquake hazard for a region that rarely registers notable seismic activity. The U.S. Geologic Survey’s most recent map updates an area of Southeast Tennessee to include a patch of red, indicating it has been placed in the second-most hazardous tier out of seven that the USGS uses in its national map that is released every six years. “The 2014 map when compared with the 2008 map does indicate that we should be a little more concerned — not that we have a huge hazard — but we should be somewhat concerned,” said Jonathan Mies, a geology professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Santorum backs Wamp; Fleischmann mailer under fire (Times Free Press)
Weston Wamp is a member of the generation of “millennials” born since 1981 that, according a Pew Research Center poll last year, supports same-sex marriage by 70 percent. Still, the 27-year-old Wamp, who hopes to unseat incumbent Chuck Fleischmann in the Aug. 7 Republican primary for Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, was enthusiastic to announce Friday he’d gotten the endorsement of former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. The conservative Pennsylvania lawmaker came in second in the 2012 Republican presidential primary — and caught flak for his staunch opposition to gay marriage and abortion, even in cases of incest or rape.

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