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August 25 TN News Digest

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

Local judge named to state Appeals Court (Columbia Daily Herald)
Two weeks ago, Judge Robert Lee Holloway Jr. garnered 13,072 votes in his uncontested bid for another term on the 22nd Judicial District, Part II, bench. On Thursday, Gov. Bill Haslam appointed him to a new position — one final vote elevating Holloway to the position as a judge on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Middle Section. “Tennesseans are fortunate to have Judge Holloway to step into this important role,” Haslam said. “He has distinguished himself both on the bench and in various ways in the community. This appointment will serve the Middle Section well.”

Hawkins ACT scores improving but still below state average (Times-News)
Hawkins County’s high school ACT scores last year were below the state average, but improved over the previous year, and rose to a five year high water mark. Hawkins County’s ACT scores are also improving at a faster rate than the state average, as both main high schools saw big gains in every subject area. Overall Hawkins County students scored an 18.8 composite score, below the Tennessee average of 19.8. But, Hawkins County’s “Class of 2014” saw a 0.8 increase from the previous year and surpassed the state’s composite improvement of 0.3.

Nursing wing set to open at UT Martin Parsons Center (Jackson Sun)
The University of Tennessee at Martin Parsons Center will officially open its West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation Nursing Wing with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday. The event is set for 10:30 a.m. at the center, which is located at 975 Tennessee Ave. N. in Parsons. The public is invited to attend, according to a news release from UT Martin. UT President Joe DiPietro, UT Martin Chancellor Tom Rakes, local and state elected officials and university nursing faculty members are expected to join Parsons Center students and others for the ceremony. Dr. Kelli Deere, Parsons Center director, will lead the event. Initial funding for the expansion was included in the 2013-14 budget proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam and approved by the Tennessee General Assembly.

THP planning ‘no refusal’ enforcement weekend (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Highway Patrol is gearing up for a “no refusal” enforcement campaign over the Labor Day holiday. The “no refusal” law allows officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. THP Colonel Tracy Trott said in a news release that it will be implemented in each of the eight highway patrol districts with the help of local law enforcement across the state. Trott said the goal is to remove drunk drivers from the road and save lives. In addition to “no refusal” enforcement, troopers will conduct driver’s license, sobriety and seat belt checkpoints, as well as saturation patrols and bar and tavern checks. The special enforcement effort begins at midnight on Friday and concludes at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, September 1.

Tennessee officials appeal Occupy Nashville ruling (Associated Press/Loller)
Two high-ranking Tennessee officials are asking a federal appeals court to rule that they did not violate the rights of Occupy Nashville protesters who were arrested on the War Memorial Plaza in October 2011. U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger last year found Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons and former General Services Commissioner Steven Cates violated protesters’ rights when they promulgated a last-minute curfew for the plaza, then had those who refused to leave arrested. In briefs filed with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, state attorneys argue that Gibbons and Cates should be granted qualified immunity for their actions to disperse the protesters.

Election challenge filed in Roane County (News-Sentinel/Fowler)
Tom McFarland isn’t giving up. McFarland, the Roane County attorney, lost his bid to become 9th Judicial District Circuit Court judge in the Aug. 7 election to Mike Pemberton, 13,357 votes to 13,017 votes. Pemberton’s qualifications to serve as judge are again being challenged, this time by his adversary. McFarland is renewing earlier arguments made by Roane County resident Willis Hall that Pemberton didn’t live in the judicial district for the requisite year before the election. The latest complaint was filed Aug. 20 in Roane County Chancery Court and is an election challenge. It asks that Pemberton’s election be voided.

Tennessee agencies have $121M in military surplus (Associated Press)
Since 1993, Tennessee law enforcement agencies have received more than 41,000 military surplus items worth at least $121 million, much of that going to the state’s smaller cities and counties. According to a Tennessean report (http://tnne.ws/1qDpJbA) based on data from the state Department of General Services, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office leads the pack at $9.7 million in equipment. That includes the state’s single priciest item, a $5 million communications system. Following are the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office with $8.1 million, Livingston Police with $4.5 million, Parsons Police with $4.2 million and the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department with $3.8 million. There are 31 mine-resistant trucks in the state, including in Lebanon, Gallatin and Hendersonville. More than 300 M-14s and M-16s have been distributed to Tennessee agencies through the surplus program.

Jasper police get more military firepower, Humvees (Times Free-Press/Lewis)
Assault rifles, night-vision goggles and Humvees aren’t just for military zones. Some such equipment could be coming to a street near you. As the White House undertakes a comprehensive review of the government program that supplies police departments with surplus military gear, Jasper is receiving six like-new M-16 assault rifles with the promise of two more in the future. The department paid a small fee to join the federal government’s Department of Defense Excess Property Program. “It’s a good program for a department like us to be able to get equipment that we probably wouldn’t have the money to buy,” Police Chief Tim Graham said. “We’ve gotten some pretty nice equipment that didn’t cost the town basically anything. We’re kind of proud of that.”

Smokies to celebrate National Park Service anniversary (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
Rangers with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Monday will gather to celebrate the 98th anniversary of the National Park Service’s creation. Park visitors are encouraged to participate in one of the many ranger-led programs at park visitor centers or by exploring the park along a scenic roadway, trail or river. According to a news release, acting Superintendent Cindy MacLeod is inviting everyone to celebrate the founding of the National Park Service as they reflect on nearly 100 years of preserving America’s natural treasures.

 
OPINION

Editorial: Property owners gain protection with court ruling (News-Sentinel)
The state Supreme Court handed property rights advocates a victory last week by ruling the Tennessee Constitution requires that governments must compensate property owners for “regulatory takings,” not just outright condemnations. The unanimous opinion aligns state constitutional law with federal jurisprudence on the issue. As Justice Cornelia “Connie” Clark pointed out in the court’s opinion, the similarities between Article I, Section 21 of the state constitution and the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution demand that they be interpreted identically. The provisions in both constitutions prevent governments from seizing property for public use without paying “just compensation” to the owners.

Marsha Blackburn: Obama caused border crisis; House will fix it (Tennessean)
A few weeks ago, I visited an unaccompanied alien children (UAC) detention center at Fort Sill, Okla. This facility housed approximately 1,000 male and female teens who were apprehended crossing the border. Many of these children arrived with nothing more than a piece of paper containing the name and phone number of their “host.” Officials estimated that at least 25 percent of the children at Fort Sill were sexually abused during their journey. At other facilities, that estimate is as high as 50 percent. Given all that has happened, our border remains far from secure. Some officials estimate that a second wave of 30,000 unaccompanied children is expected in the cooler autumn months.

Editorial: TVA gets it right in replacing the coal-fired Allen Fossil Plant (C. Appeal)
The decision by the Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors last week to shut down the Allen Fossil Plant in Southwest Memphis was not a surprise. The writing was on the wall when the TVA entered into agreements with environmental regulators and several states and groups that resolved alleged Clean Air Act violations at Allen and other coal-fired electric generating plants. The agreements required the agency to either retire the plants or equip them with extremely expensive scrubbers or baghouses to capture pollutants. The TVA’s board decided it would be more cost-efficient to replace Allen, completed in 1959, with a new, cleaner $975 million natural gas plant to be built at a nearby site.

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