Press Releases

August 10 TN News Digest

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

Academy Sports + Outdoors announcement puts region on business map (C. H-C)
The announcement of the first distribution center for a well-known sports retailer is just the first of many job announcements, city and county officials said with excitement Friday morning as the economic development project formerly known as “Project Victor” was revealed. Academy Sports + Outdoors officials are equally — if not more — excited. “This is just the beginning,” Cookeville Mayor Matt Swallows said during the press conference held Friday morning at Dogwood Park with state officials — including Governor Bill Haslam — present.

Haslam visits Wilson County (Lebanon Democrat)
Gov. Bill Haslam made a brief stop in Mt. Juliet on Tuesday while on the campaign trail prior to Thursday’s Republican primary. The Wilson County Republican Party sponsored the visit at Courtney’s Restaurant, where Haslam thanked his supporters and community members. “It is my privilege as chairman of the Wilson County Republican Party, I am proud to have the governor here today,” said Pat Fields. Haslam encouraged the attendees to help make sure others got out to vote. “It is great to be here with friends,” Haslam said. “I appreciate the mayors being here. We’re just going out and reminding people to go out and vote.”

Haslam proclaims today as day of prayer over state’s students (Jackson Sun)
Gov. Bill Haslam has proclaimed today to be the “Day of Prayer Over Students Across Tennessee.” At the request of First Priority and with the help of state officials, Haslam proclaimed the first statewide day of prayer over students. First Priority will be joined by Moms in Prayer and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to coordinate the prayer emphasis encouraged by the proclamation, according to a news release. “We are thankful for the governor’s proclamation,” said Haley Wherry, First Priority Blue Ridge’s executive director. “Praying for students is not just a privilege, it’s a necessity. They face an enormous amount of peer pressure to become part of what is considered normal by the world’s standards.

Despite Failure, Campaign to Oust Justices Keeps Conservatives Hopeful (NYT)
When a Tennessee Supreme Court justice who had been targeted for defeat by conservative groups and business interests declared victory on Thursday night, it did not take long for grateful sentiments to give way to a bit of swagger. “Tennessee justice is not for sale,” the justice, Sharon G. Lee, said after she thanked her supporters at a sports bar here. “They can spend all the money they want — I think they spent well over $1 million — but they cannot buy this election. They cannot buy our system of justice.” But Justice Lee’s pronouncement is unlikely to deter or rattle conservatives who, eyeing the courts as an outlet to augment their public policy pursuits, have transformed monotonous judicial elections into full-throated campaigns brimming with consultants, television advertising, direct mail and major campaign spending.

Change in law allows Graceland to apply for tourism development zone (CA/Clarke)
Graceland’s 450-room hotel will be one of the largest in Memphis when it’s built — but the project wasn’t quite big enough to qualify for a state program that would let it use future sales tax revenue to help pay off its construction costs. How to fix the problem? Change the law. This past legislative session, state lawmakers amended the 16-year-old law that governs Tennessee tourism development zones. Under the new rules, projects only need to invest $75 million in public and private funds — compared with $200 million as the statute was previously written. It was only Graceland seeking the change, said James McLaren, an attorney representing Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc., the company that runs Graceland.

Good grief, Charlie Brown running for governor (Times Free-Press/Sher)
Dear Tennessee Democrats: You have done it again. After nominating anti-gay rights activist Mark Clayton in 2012 as your U.S. Senate nominee, meet the man you nominated last week as your party’s champion against Republican Gov. Bill Haslam this fall. It’s Charlie Brown. But unlike the lovable “Peanuts” cartoon character, Charles V. “Charlie” Brown, of Oakdale, Tenn., is definitely not the kind of guy who’d tolerate Lucy Van Pelt snatching a football away from him. His top campaign plank? Well, the 72-year-old retired businessman and Realtor wants to stick Haslam in the state’s electric chair and “give him about half the jolt.”

Henry, Purcell, other Democrats back Lamar Alexander (Tennessean/Cass)
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander will start his Republican general election campaign with some prominent Democrats and independents already on board. The former governor’s campaign announced this weekend the first round of “Tennesseans for Alexander,” a group that includes retiring state Sen. Douglas Henry, former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell, defense attorney Aubrey Harwell and former deputy governor Dave Cooley. Former U.S. Rep. John Tanner, lobbyist Anna Windrow, former University of Tennessee football coach Johnny Majors and former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice George Brown, the first African-American to serve on the court and an Alexander appointee, also are on the list.

Lamar Alexander campaign keeps moving (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Brogdon)
With the Republican primary behind him, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is moving to broaden his support as he looks ahead to the general election in November. The Maryville Republican’s campaign announced Sunday a list of 30 Democrats and Independents across the state who will be supporting his bid for a third term. “Every time I’ve run for office, I’ve done my best to earn the support of Democrats and Independents as well as Republicans because it is my job to represent all Tennesseans once I am elected,” Alexander said in a statement. “My goal is to get results, and that means working with people who know how to help solve problems for Tennessee and for our country.”

How Fleischmann eked out a win: Turnout, spending called key (TFP/Brogdon)
Thursday was a bitter loss for Weston Wamp. But political minds say it was an equally bitter win for his opponent, incumbent U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann. “Fleischmann still hasn’t been able to make this a safe seat. This is a result that doesn’t scare off potential challengers. Fifty-one [percent] to 49 [percent], that’s not comfortable,” said Vanderbilt University political science professor Bruce Oppenheimer. “You’d think after four years, you would have solidified the district, at least in your own party’s primary.” Fleischmann won Thursday’s Republican primary in the 3rd Congressional District by 1,681 votes, complete but unofficial state records show. He garnered 46,745 votes over Wamp’s 45,064 districtwide.

Memphis’ looks likely to rely on controversial PILOT tax breaks (CA/Evanoff)
It doesn’t look like Memphis’ controversy over corporate subsidies will soon fade away. PILOT tax breaks are likely to stay in the headlines as the Mississippi suburbs try to shed the residential-only image and attract a new wave of upscale corporate offices. Construction is underway on Interstate 269, a road that promises to be a key corporate recruiting tool for Mississippi, opening the way for acres of pristine office developments in rural sections of DeSoto and Marshall counties. State leaders already have prepared for the freeway’s completion. On July 1, Mississippi began to offer $1 million tax breaks to attract corporate offices.

Charter school financial transparency to mirror all Metro schools (TN/Garrison)
New provisions aimed at financial transparency and fielding parent complaints at Nashville charter schools moved forward at a Metro school board committee meeting Saturday. But amid a new emphasis on civility between the full district and charter school leaders, board members have made it clear that the district’s traditional public schools are to be held to the same standards. The board’s Governance Committee voted Saturday for a revised charter school policy that would have the superintendent request that all Nashville charters publish financial documents — including a disclosure of private funds that complement its public allocations — on Metro Nashville Public Schools’ website.


Editorial: Voters wise to reject partisan attack on justices (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
A majority of Tennessee voters saw through the slickly packaged misinformation, innuendoes and outright lies about three esteemed state Supreme Court justices and voted Thursday to retain them. Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee each received new, well-deserved eight-year terms after winning solid majorities in their retention elections. Under Tennessee’s system, justices and appeals court judges initially are appointed by the governor and at the end of their first terms — and any subsequent terms — must prevail in yes-or-no retention votes. Retention votes are nonpartisan and typically uncontroversial. Only one justice has ever been kicked off the bench by voters.

Editorial: Voter turnout Aug. 7 still disappointing (Daily News Journal)
The people have spoken — more or less. More than 32,000 voters participated in the Aug.7 election, but that number still only represents about 20 percent of the county’s registered voters, which is not a particularly strong showing. Almost everyone who went to the polls voted in the sheriff’s race, and the races for county mayor and judges also drew large numbers of those who voted in the county general election. Of all the branches of government, the judicial branch will show the most changes with retirements and ousting of a few incumbents. New officeholders in the judiciary will include the district attorney, the chancellor, the Circuit Court clerk, two General Sessions judges and the Smyrna Town Court judge.

Editorial: PILOT dilemma calls for action on national level (Commercial Appeal)
Critics say there’s something wrong with this picture when corporate tax breaks are posed alongside things like cutbacks in the health care benefits of retired city employees. That is what has happened in Memphis, where Mayor A C Wharton plans to fill a hole in the municipal pension fund by reducing city spending on health care for employees and retirees and converting the city’s guaranteed-benefit pension plan to a 401(k)-type system for new employees and those with less than 10 years of experience. The beef with tax breaks is that they’re obviously to blame for inadequate funding of the city’s pension and retiree health care plans.

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