Press Releases

August 19 TN News Digest

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

Haslam urges high-schoolers to share scholarship news (Jackson Sun)
The deadline to apply for the Tennessee Promise scholarship is Nov. 1, information high school seniors need to spread, said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. “We’re incredibly excited about this,” Haslam said. “It was great the legislature passed it. It was great that we found a way to pay for it; but it doesn’t do us any good if students don’t know about it and don’t apply.” Haslam met Monday at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Jackson to speak to high school seniors, elected officials, TCAT employees and school board members about the program that offers graduating seniors two years of community college or college of applied technology free of tuition and fees.

Governor Haslam promotes “Tennessee Promise” in West TN (WBBJ-TV)
High school seniors who need help with college tuition next year may want to act fast. Earlier this year, Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill promising tuition and fees at any community college in the Volunteer State will be paid for all high school graduates starting in 2015. Monday, the governor was in West Tennessee to remind students about the “Tennessee Promise” deadline. “All that’s great, but unless students are aware of it and sign up it doesn’t do us any good. The application deadline is November 1 and so we’re out around the state encouraging high school seniors to sign up for “Tennessee Promise” by November 1,” said Governor Haslam.

Gov. Bill Haslam in Memphis to sell seniors on Promise scholarship (CA/Roberts)
Gov. Bill Haslam was at East High Monday, promoting the Tennessee Promise scholarship that will give every high school graduate in the state, starting this spring, a chance to complete two years of college for free. “If you graduate from high school, we are going to make certain you get two years of community college or technology school absolutely free,” Haslam told more than 150 seniors at East. The applause rocketed through the auditorium. “And this year’s senior class is the first eligible,” he said. Haslam is touring the state this week to announce the kickoff the program state legislators approved last winter.

Applications for Shelby judgeship due Aug. 25 (Commercial Appeal/Locker)
Potential candidates for a Shelby County Chancery Court judgeship have until next Monday to submit detailed applications to a state panel that will nominate three candidates to Gov. Bill Haslam. The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments is accepting applications for the vacancy created by the appointment of Chancellor Kenny Armstrong to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, effective Sept. 1. An applicants must be a licensed attorney, at least 30 years old, a resident of Tennessee for five years, and a current resident of Shelby County.

Haslam says Cummins expansion is on state’s radar screen (Commercial Appeal)
Mississippi’s efforts to lure Cummins Inc.’s Memphis distribution center has caught Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s attention. “We’re somewhat limited in what we can do, but they are an important company and we fully intend to do everything we can to make sure they know Memphis is the right place for them to do business,” Haslam said Monday. “State incentives would depend on what their growth looked like and some other factors,” Haslam added. “They are a very important company to us, I’ll just put it that way.” Memphis and Shelby County government officials are looking to Tennessee for incentives beyond the local property tax breaks in an effort to compete with the Mississippi suburbs for the proposed Cummins’ expansion.

Tanker explosion cuts off access to I-65, raises questions (Tennessean/Walters)
The first five lanes of a new 10-lane Goose Creek/Peytonsville Road bridge would have been open by winter, ready to ease the growing traffic crunch along Interstate 65 in southern Williamson County. Instead, a tanker truck crash engulfed that new five-lane bridge and the old two-lane bridge in a fireball on Friday morning, claiming the life of the truck’s driver and derailing a more than $40 million project. The accident leaves emergency crews and residents without a simple way across Interstate 65 in southern Williamson County while crews build a new bridge to replace the two bridges damaged by fire.

TBI launches human trafficking initiative (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has launched a new initiative to raise awareness of human trafficking. The campaign is called “It Has To Stop” and features a website with links for visitors to join nonprofits and other groups in the effort to curb trafficking in Tennessee and abroad. Research by The Polaris Project, a national leader in the fight against human trafficking, indicates it is one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises in the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimate the number of children bought and sold in the country for the purpose of sexual exploitation to number at least 100,000.

TBI launches campaign to fight human trafficking (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking in Tennessee. The campaign is called “IT Has To Stop.” A new website features information, current research and statistics, video, important contacts, and links for visitors to join nonprofits and other groups in the efforts to curb trafficking in Tennessee. “Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, it’s unacceptable, and it’s a crime in Tennessee,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “We hope TBI’s new public awareness campaign sheds some much-needed light on the issue, so we can increase the number of people who insist it has to stop in our state and beyond.”

THP trooper placed on leave in wake of domestic assault arrest (JCP)
A Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper was placed on “discretionary leave” with pay last week and stripped of his law enforcement power and equipment after being arrested on a domestic aggravated assault charge involving his wife. Russel “Rusty” D. Holtsclaw, 28, was arrested Aug. 10 — his birthday — after the argument and physical assault on Laura Holtsclaw at the couple’s Johnson City home. A neighbor called police after Laura Holtsclaw’s two older children, ages 7 and 9, ran for help.

Ramsey licks wounds, Haslam looks to November (Nashville Post)
Gov. Bill Haslam figured the justices on the Supreme Court would prevail against Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. He just didn’t think they would win by so much. Ramsey didn’t either. As one of the most powerful Republicans in the state, he bet $425,000 of his campaign war chest, and even more political capital, that he and supporters could rile up enough voters to see the judges as liberal Democrats who appointed an Obamacare-loving attorney general, and boot them all out of office. But what he got in return was a 14-point loss, a clear 57 percent of voters saying they don’t buy his message and the state’s top Republicans now saying they think the current attorney general is not so bad.

Tennessee AG: Parents can’t give kids new last names (Associated Press)
Tennessee’s attorney general says married parents can’t invent new last names for their children. Attorney General Bob Cooper writes in a legal opinion that state law limits the options to the last name of either the father or the mother, or both. What’s not allowed, says Cooper, is a hybrid name using portions of both parents’ last names. For example, he says, the child of a couple named Johnson or McAllister could have either last name or both names hyphenated. But Cooper says the parents could not decide to create a new name like “Johnister” or ‘McAllinson.” The legal opinion was requested by Republican state Rep. Charles Sargent of Franklin.

Special judge appointed to hear Monroe sheriff case (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
The Tennessee Supreme Court appointed a special judge to hear a lawsuit filed against Monroe County sheriff-elect Randy White. The chairman of the Monroe County Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against White and the election commission before the election after an announcement that White wasn’t certified to be on the ballot. The POST commission ruled that White didn’t have enough full-time law enforcement experience to meet state requirements to run for sheriff, but they didn’t find out until after the election commission certified him and early voting was underway.

Caucus to decide nominee for Memphis Senate seat (Associated Press)
While several potential candidates have expressed interest in running to succeed state Sen. Jim Kyle, the Shelby County Democratic Party has decided to forgo a primary and decide the nominee through a caucus. The Commercial Appeal ( ) reports that the caucus is scheduled to take place Aug. 28 in Memphis. Bryan Carson, the county party chairman, said that about 16 members of the executive committee who represent parts of Senate District 30 will be eligible to vote for the nominee. Kyle, who serves as Senate minority leader, is leaving the Legislature after winning a chancery judgeship on Aug. 7. Democrats interested in running for the seat include the incumbent’s wife, Sara Kyle; former Sen. Beverly Marrero; and state Reps. G. A. Hardaway and Antonio Parkinson.  (SUBSCRIPTION)

DesJarlais, Terry win GOP primaries despite raising less (Daily News Journal)
The candidates who raise the most money don’t always win. U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, for example, raised less than a third of the more than $1.4 million that Republican challenger Jim Tracy collected, yet the incumbent came away with what appears to be a 38-vote victory in the Aug. 7 GOP primary. Tracy, a state senator from Shelbyville who represents much of Rutherford County, is waiting on all of the 16 county election commissions in the 4th Congressional District to certify their vote counts before announcing if he’ll accept them or challenge the results to the Tennessee Republican Party Executive Committee, Campaign Manager Stephanie Jarnagin said during a Monday phone interview.

Bartlett Police get 113 assault rifles via federal surplus program (CA/Thomas)
The federal surplus military equipment program that empowered Ferguson, Missouri police to meet protesters with a paramilitary show of force also funneled a small arsenal to Shelby County law enforcement agencies. Of the current inventory in the county, 75 percent of the equipment went to Bartlett Police, according to the inventory records kept by state Law Enforcement Support Office, which administers the Defense Logistics Agency program. For the cost of shipping, Bartlett received 113 assault rifles. The city has 116 commissioned officers. While area police rarely, if ever, turn to their stash of LESO-supplied equipment to quell public protests, the program is under scrutiny following the Ferguson police response to crowds protesting the Aug. 9 shooting death of an unarmed black man. In the days after Michael Brown’s death, two armored Humvees, acquired through the LESO program, rolled through the streets of the St. Louis suburb, where police also used rubber bullets and tear gas to drive away protesters and looters.

Veterans Win In-State Tuition Benefit (Stateline)
As president of the Collegiate Veterans Association at Florida State University, Abby Kinch often heard from veterans who ran into a stumbling block before they even started their college careers. Veterans new to the state who enrolled at Florida State soon discovered they had to pay out-of-state tuition for their first year, or an additional $15,000. (By the second year, they had lived in the state long enough to have established residency.) For some, that meant the difference between attending college or not. For many others, it meant the burden of student loans they hadn’t planned on. In May, however, Florida joined a growing list of states that have made it easier for veterans to qualify for in-state tuition.

Hospitals Reconsider Charity For Patients Who Decline Health Coverage (KHN)
As more Americans gain insurance under the federal health law, hospitals are rethinking their charity programs, with some scaling back help for those who could have signed up for coverage but didn’t. The move is prompted by concerns that offering free or discounted care to low-income uninsured patients might dissuade them from getting government-subsidized coverage. If a patient is eligible to purchase subsidized coverage through the law’s online marketplaces but doesn’t sign up, should hospitals “provide charity care on the same level of generosity as they were previously?” asks Peter Cunningham, a health policy expert at Virginia Commonwealth University.

School board approves McIntyre’s evaluation (Knoxville News-Sentinel/McCoy)
While Knox County school board members made it clear they think Superintendent Jim McIntyre is doing a good job leading the district, they also believe he must show that he is listening to concerns from the community and teachers. On Monday, members unanimously approved the cumulative evaluation of the superintendent. As part of his contract, McIntyre is to be evaluated by the school board every year. The evaluation was in four areas: student achievement; strategic planning and execution; effective use of resources; and parental and community engagement and satisfaction. McIntyre told board members that it was a privilege to serve as superintendent and acknowledged there’s a lot more work for the district to do.

Louisiana: Fight on Common Core Is Dividing Louisiana (New York Times)
A bitter fight over the future of academic standards in Louisiana has generated dueling lawsuits, a standoff between Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state superintendent of education he appointed, and a sense of chaos among educators and parents. On Monday, a group of parents and teachers and a charter school operator were in court in Baton Rouge arguing that the governor’s withdrawal of the state from a testing contract aligned with the Common Core — a set of reading and math standards intended to guide teachers from kindergarten through high school graduation — amounted to an “attempt to usurp the authority” of the Legislature and the board of education.

Mississippi: State sought 75 literacy coaches, hired just 41 (Clarion Ledger)
The Mississippi Department of Education hired just 41 of the 75 literacy coaches wanted to fully implement a new legislative initiative dubbed “third-grade reading gate.” It’s up from 24 last year but still short of the agency’s goal. Under the program, struggling readers will be held back if they can’t make progress by the end of third grade. Coaches are meant to reduce the number of affected children by helping schools identify and assist at-risk students so they can achieve grade-level reading proficiency. They’ll spend a few days each week in their assigned school. The state appropriated $15 million toward the effort.

Editorial: Amendment math makes votes for governor vital (Leaf Chronicle)
There’s a lot at stake — especially for Democrats — in the November general election. But not for reasons you may think Tennessee voters chose by about 3-1 to vote on the Republican primary ballot in August. But the 225,617 voters who chose the Democratic ballot named Charles V. “Charlie” Brown as the Democratic nominee for governor. Perhaps it was the familiar “Charlie Brown” name, or maybe it was just the advantage of the alphabet and his name was first on the list of largely unknown candidates. It certainly was not because of any campaigning that Charles V. “Charlie” Brown waged, because the total sum of his campaigning was to get 25 names on a petition to run for office and the creation of a Facebook page with his first name misspelled.

Editorial: Budget cuts take textbooks off the list (Jackson Sun
While we’re still patiently waiting for every student to have a teacher for every class, we learn not every student has a textbook for every class. At least not a textbook that’s current and usable. Many students are finding themselves in classrooms with outdated books in disrepair. We understand Dr. Verna Ruffin and our current school board inherited most of the financial challenges we now face. We appreciate their transparency and we appreciate the hard decisions they must make. We also understand that fixing these problems will take long-term solutions and at times not be popular. That all being said, it simply isn’t right for our students to work with old, worn-out materials like this. We all want our children to succeed.

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