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August 29 TN News Digest

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

Beretta celebrates groundbreaking in Tennessee (Associated Press)
Company and state officials are celebrating the groundbreaking at Italian gun-maker Beretta USA’s new plant in Tennessee. Berretta announced in January that it would build a new manufacturing and research facility in the Nashville suburb of Gallatin. The company later announced in July that concerns over a strict gun-control law enacted in Maryland last year have made it necessary to move all its weapons making from there to Tennessee. Several states began wooing Beretta from Maryland after the gun-control measures were enacted there last year. Beretta has operated in Italy since 1526. The family-owned company makes a variety of firearms, ranging from hunting shotguns to the U.S. Armed Forces M-9 pistol.

Beretta breaks ground on $45 million Gallatin plant (Tennessean/Cross)
Construction is expected to begin next month on gunmaker Beretta USA’s “new home” in Gallatin. Hundreds of state and local officials joined with representatives of Beretta USA Corp. Thursday to break ground on the company’s 156,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. It will be built on 100 acres in the second phase of the Gallatin Industrial Center. “We are not a company that builds a manufacturing facility every day,” said Franco Gussalli Beretta, executive vice president. “Today we actually break ground on our new home. Beretta’s future in Tennessee is now a reality.”

Beretta Unsure How Many Jobs Will Go To Tennesseans (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
Top officials from gun manufacturer Beretta — along with state dignitaries — shoveled piles of dirt at a groundbreaking for the new manufacturing facility Thursday. The company is moving all of its U.S. manufacturing to Gallatin from Maryland after that state’s assembly passed new gun control legislation last year. Beretta expects to eventually employ 300 at the new plant, but it is unclear how many of those jobs will go to Tennesseans. The company gave its Maryland workforce first dibs on jobs in Gallatin. Jeff Reh, one of Beretta’s board of directors, says that 42 of the company’s top employees agreed to make the move and others are asking to do the same.

Funk’s swearing-in as DA more party than ceremony (Tennessean/Wilson)
Glenn Funk’s official swearing-in proved to be just as much a party as a ceremony on Thursday afternoon At times, the first swearing-in of a newly elected district attorney in nearly half a century in Nashville felt more like a revival. Gospel singer Benita Washington brought down the house at War Memorial Auditorium with a pair of gospel songs before the Pearl-Cohn marching band’s rendition of “Give Up the Funk.” Funk’s spokeswoman said the incoming DA picked that song. After being sworn in by Gov. Bill Haslam, Funk told the crowd he would aim to meet the goals he set during the campaign. He said he would try to promote diversity in his office while focusing more on advocating for victims of domestic violence.

Glenn Funk sworn in as Nashville’s District Attorney General (WKRN-TV Nashville)
Long-time defense attorney Glenn Funk took the oath of office Thursday to become Nashville’s third District Attorney General since 1966. The 3 p.m. swearing-in by Governor Bill Haslam at the War Memorial Auditorium was largely ceremonial as outgoing DA Torry Johnson remains legally in office until the stroke of Midnight Monday. “If some crisis happened on Sunday afternoon, I am sure he would get the call, but then he would call me and he and I would work together that afternoon,” Funk said Thursday morning.

Task force appointed on sentencing and recidivism (Crossville Chronicle)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the formation of the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism as part of the administration’s overall effort to reduce crime and improve public safety. In June, the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet announced a partnership with the Vera Institute of Justice to review sentencing and correction policies and practices. The creation of a task force is the next step in that collaboration. “We have put a strong emphasis on addressing some of our state’s toughest safety challenges head on, and the Public Safety Subcabinet is doing great work,” Haslam said.

Haslam may submit Medicaid expansion plan in fall (Tennessean, AP/Wilemon)
In a move that could mean health coverage for thousands of Tennesseans, Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that the state may soon submit a proposal to Washington to expand Tennessee’s Medicaid program but did not release any new details on how it might work. This would be the first time for the governor to actually submit a plan. If approved by federal officials and the state legislature, the plan would help Tennesseans caught in the coverage gap of the Affordable Care Act, which has left 162,000 Tennesseans without health insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Haslam to present Medicaid expansion plan in fall (Times Free-Press/Sher)
Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he hopes to put a long-delayed Medicaid expansion proposal before federal officials soon that would extend subsidized health insurance to an estimated 180,000 low-income Tennessee adults. “I think we’ll probably go to them sometime this fall with a plan … that we think makes sense for Tennessee,” the Republican told reporters in response. It’s the first significant development in months over Tennessee’s ongoing struggle to expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law. Like many Republican governors, Haslam so far has declined to accept hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds that became available on Jan. 1, 2014, absent a special waiver of federal rules that he says will save money and result in better health outcomes.

Haslam Says He’s Sending Medicaid Expansion Plan To Obama Officials (WPLN)
Gov. Bill Haslam said on Thursday that he plans on sending federal health officials a proposal for expanding medicaid this fall. This comes a year and a half after Haslam first started talking about the “Tennessee Plan.” Estimates project that that Medicaid expansion in Tennessee would cover an additional 180,000 low-income working people. Although the federal government has indicated that it will pay the vast bulk of the expansion, Haslam has remained wary of growing Medicaid coverage, which 28 other states have done. Members of the state’s NAACP chapter held a protest on Thursday on the capitol to urge the governor to accept the federal funding and expand coverage, as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act. “It’s nice to say, ‘let’s put politics aside.’

Advocates urge governor to expand Medicaid (Associated Press)
The state chapter of the NAACP and other advocates for health care on Thursday urged Gov. Bill Haslam to expand Medicaid in Tennessee, and the Republican governor says he’s considering a plan. About 50 protesters gathered on the War Memorial Plaza across the street from the state Capitol. Tennessee NAACP President Gloria Sweet-Love said her group wrote the governor about two weeks ago and will hold events throughout the year to draw attention to the issue. Haslam last year declined to accept the Medicaid money without special arrangements for the state. He told reporters later Thursday that he wants to do what “works financially for the state long term.”

Haslam to visit LMU for CPEC training (Clairborne Progress)
Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) will host the Clinch-Powell Educational Cooperative (CPEC) Multi-County In-Service Training in the Tex Turner Arena on its main campus in Harrogate on Friday. Teachers and administrators from six county school districts, including Campbell, Claiborne, Hancock, Grainger, Scott and Union, will hear from Governor Bill Haslam before Battelle for Kids Executive Director Jim Mahoney makes the keynote presentation, The Power of Collaboration. Tennessee Deputy Commissioner of Education Kathleen Airhart and Assistant Commissioner Joey Hassel will bring Tennessee Department of Education updates and a presentation on Response to Intervention (RTI) for all grade levels.

‘Books from Birth’ bus tour makes stop at Bristol Motor Speedway (Herald-Courier)
Sydnee Penland is like any other 8-year-old. She giggles, has a vivid imagination, her grandmother says, and loves to read thanks to an early start with a gift country music icon Dolly Parton gave her every month through her formative years. Sydnee was one of more than 200,000 children who got a new book every month from Dolly’s Imagination Library in conjunction with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation. Both agencies celebrated the foundation’s 10th anniversary Thursday with an event in the infield of Bristol Motor Speedway that included an appearance from Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam.

TennCare Choices — Is it doing enough? (WCYB-TV Johnson City)
When you get older, you hope the care you need is available and affordable. TennCare is Tennessee’s Medicaid program. Two years ago, the state implemented some changes that the state says better identifies who should go in a nursing home and who should receive care or help at home. We talked with Mary Tilson. She has cerebral palsy and has limited use of her arms and legs, so she needs help doing what many of us take for granted: getting out of bed, bathing, and using the bathroom. Mary’s mom used to be her sole caregiver, but it’s become too much. She now relies on others to come into their home everyday, three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening.

Clarksville General Session judges sworn in (Leaf Chronicle)
It was a historical moment Thursday morning when General Sessions Judge Wayne C. Shelton, who has been a judge for more than 31 years, put the judge’s robe on Timothy Barnes for the first time. Barnes assumed the new role of Juvenile Court Judge in Division IV of the General Sessions Court. Continuing rapid growth Clarksville-Montgomery County district led to the creation of the new position. Also Thursday, judges Ken Goble, Raymond Grimes, Shelton and Barnes took their oath of office, which was administered by Court of Appeals Judge and former local judge Robert Wedemeyer. Pastor Terry Jenkins presented a prayer before the ceremony, then lent his Bible for each judge to place their hand on to take their oath.

Kyle Atkins sworn in as Circuit Court judge (Jackson Sun)
Kyle Atkins was sworn in Thursday as the 26th Judicial District Circuit Court Division III judge. Attorneys, friends, family and others gathered in the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex to watch John Williams, a judge on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, swear in Atkins. He will officially take office Sept. 1. Atkins, who ran as a Republican, defeated incumbent Nathan Pride in the Aug. 7 election with almost 65 percent of the vote. The seat covers Madison, Henderson and Chester counties. Atkins previously lost to Pride in a 2012 election. “I look forward to being a servant to this community,” Atkins said. “…We’re to administer justice fair and impartially and, hopefully, along the way we’re going to make a difference in the lives of some people in Madison, Chester and Henderson county.”

Few clues to Tennessee attorney general applicants (Associated Press/Schelzig)
The deadline to apply to become Tennessee’s next attorney general is Friday, but anyone still on the fence about whether to join the fray won’t have the benefit of sizing up the competition first. Under a policy set by the state Supreme Court, the names of applicants won’t be released until after the noon application deadline has passed. Incumbent Attorney General Bob Cooper, whose term expires at the end of the month, and Republican state Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville are the only candidates who have publicly announced their candidacies. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville said Thursday that his decision will hinge on whether Gov. Bill Haslam’s legal counsel, Herbert Slattery, applies.

GOP Upset Over History Classes That Leave Out Holocaust, King, Jr. (WPLN-Radio)
Two state senators are challenging how Advanced Placement history courses are taught in Tennessee classrooms. Republicans Dolores Gresham and Mike Bell sent a letter to the state board of education, saying the course has “inappropriate materials, inaccurate textbooks and revisionist history.” The senators are echoing a resolution passed by the Republican National Committee this summer that called new advanced placement guidelines “radical revisionist history.” Senator Bell points to what’s left out of the guidelines as much as what’s left in. For instance, he says there’s no mention of the Holocaust or Martin Luther King. “We should prioritize what happened to Martin Luther King and his role in the Civil Rights movement,” says Bell.

State Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge to leave House seat (Times Free-Press)
State Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, will resign his District 30 post Aug. 31, according to letters he sent to Gov. Bill Haslam and the Hamilton County Commission. Dean was elected Hamilton County Criminal Court clerk on Aug. 7, replacing longtime Democratic incumbent Gwen Tidwell. The four-year term begins Monday. County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said the County Commission will have to appoint someone to fill Dean’s House seat from Monday until Dean’s replacement is elected in November. But the commission wouldn’t advertise for that appointment until the seat was vacated.

Scott DesJarlais sends staff to keep eye on Celebration (Tennessean/Barton)
Fresh off his 38-vote Republican Primary win, Rep. Scott DesJarlais is monitoring how the U.S. Department of Agriculture behaves at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville. Still undergoing cancer treatments, DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, has been sending some of his staff to the 11-day show to watch how USDA horse inspectors carry out their jobs — and to gather pictures and video as well. He said what they find may spur some initiatives of his own this fall. “Due to treatment, I was unable to attend this year’s Celebration but asked my staff to be on hand in order to view the inspection process,” he said in a statement.

States Expand Access to Overdose-Reversal Drug (Wall Street Journal)
Faced with an unrelenting epidemic of heroin and pain-pill deaths, many states are pushing to make more widely available a drug called naloxone that can reverse overdoses from such opioid drugs within minutes. In North Carolina, Louise Vincent, an outreach worker in Greensboro, has rescued scores of opioid addicts from the brink of death by giving them naloxone. Now, she is delivering the drug to those she says are in the best position to help overdose victims—their friends and family members—under a North Carolina law passed last year that expanded access to naloxone.

Democrats picked for TVA board (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)
President Barack Obama on Thursday nominated two more Tennessee Democrats to the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The White House is recommending for the TVA board Virginia Lodge, a Nashville consultant and former commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, and Ron Walter, general manager of a Memphis TV station. The nominees would replace two of the three board seats being vacated by East Tennessee representatives whose terms have expired. The new appointments, if approved by the Senate, also would mean the entire part-time board at TVA would be held by Democrats for the first time.

Obama nominates 2 Tennesseans for TVA board (News-Sentinel/Collins)
President Barack Obama has nominated two Tennesseans to serve on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors. Virginia Lodge, who served as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services from 2003 to 2011, and Ronald Walter, the president and general manager of Memphis television station WREG, were given the nod Thursday to serve on the utility’s nine-member board. Their nominations must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Lodge is the chief-executive officer of FSI Inc. in Nashville, which provides production and distribution services for businesses.

Obama nominates Memphis exec for TVA board (Commercial Appeal)
President Barack Obama has nominated Memphis television executive Ronald Walter to serve on the Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors. Walter is president and general manager of WREG-TV Channel 3. TVA, a federal utility based in Knoxville, Tennessee, produces electricity consumed in Memphis and seven states. The White House announced the nomination on Thursday.

FedEx Ground investing in Memphis hub (Commercial Appeal/Risher)
FedEx Ground has pulled a permit for a $3.3 million project at a hub at 555 Compress in South Memphis. A building permit issued this week says the work is to include a 2,343 square foot office addition, interior office upgrades, minor exterior modifications and a nearly 10,000 square foot addition to the existing local city van haul facility. The site on Compress is the older of two area FedEx Ground hubs. A newer hub is located in Olive Branch, and FedEx Ground’s SmartPost unit has a sorting facility in Southaven. The construction project comes at a time when the Pittsburgh area-based small package delivery unit of FedEx Corp. is investing heavily in expanded sorting facilities and equipment across the country.

Hume-Fogg named one of South’s top public high schools (Tennessean/Garrison)
Accolades keep coming for much-heralded Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School. The consistently high-rated Metro Nashville public high school — ranked among the nation’s best by U.S. News and World Report and most challenging by Washington Post earlier this year — has now earned the title of one of the South’s best by The Daily Beast. Hume-Fogg, a lottery-based school that also has academic entry requirements, was named the 17th best public high school in the South and 32nd overall. Fred J. Page High School of Williamson County Schools, at 24th in the South, also made the top 25 list.

D-B repeats on The Daily Beasts’s Top High Schools list (Associated Press)
Dobyns-Bennett High School has been named by The Daily Beast as one of America’s Top High Schools for the second year in a row. The ranking put D-B 10th out of 12 Tennessee high schools that made the ranking. The other closest Tennessee schools on the list were in Morristown and Knoxville, and the closest Virginia schools on the list were in Charlottesville and Mechanicsville. The Daily Beast ranking included 735 public high schools on its 2014 Top High Schools list out of more than 24,500 public high schools in the country, based on 2013 data. For the last two years, The Daily Beast has considered the nation’s high schools that have proven to be the most effective in turning out college-ready graduates.

Memphis executives mobilize to help schools (Commercial Appeal/Roberts)
Eighty upper-level managers walked into high schools Thursday with their executive-functioning brains on alert. Over the next nine months, their job is to apply their detail-oriented way of operating to the issues of education, starting with macro processes and progressing to the names and needs of the 40-plus students they’ll end up knowing the best Each business leader, including Gina Maiden, director of business and technology solutions at FedEx Corp., and Elizabeth Blondis, head of catering and shipping at Central BBQ, is paying $3,900 for Leadership Memphis’s yearlong executive-level immersion in problem-solving and community organizing.

Pennsylvania: Obama Administration, Gov. Reach Deal to Expand Medicaid (WSJ)
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett reached a deal with the Obama administration to extend the state’s Medicaid program to half a million low-income residents under the Affordable Care Act, officials said Thursday. Pennsylvania is now the 27th state to agree to broaden Medicaid to include everyone earning up to a third more than the federal poverty level, or around $16,000 for a single adult. The agreement makes Mr. Corbett, a Republican, the ninth GOP governor to go along with a central part of the 2010 health-care law. The deal represents a boost for the federal government in its efforts to coax reluctant states to extend their programs in the wake of a Supreme Court decision in June 2012 that allowed them to opt out of expansion.

 

 

OPINION

Editorial: Wine in stores now awaiting voters’ decision (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
The desire for convenience in buying wine at grocery stores instead of liquor stores is certainly reflected in the fact that more than 60 communities, including Knoxville and Knox County, have enough signatures to place the item on the ballot in November’s general election. The deadline was Aug. 21 for collecting signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters in each community considering a referendum. Red, White and Food, a coalition that lobbied the Tennessee Legislature for a change in the state’s law, said that 61 communities had submitted petitions to their respective local election commissions, which in turn had verified them.

Editorial: Students don’t need a sanitized version of U.S. history (C. Appeal)
For a political party that abhors government interference in everyday matters, Republicans frequently seem unavailable to practice what they preach. The latest evidence of that is the Republican National Committee’s attack on the College Board’s new framework for its Advanced Placement course in U.S. history. The committee claims the course “deliberately distorts and/or edits out important historical events” and “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects,” according to an RNC resolution adopted earlier this month. It is not surprising that state Senate Education Committee chairwoman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Senate Government Operations Committee chairman Mike Bell, R-Riceville, jumped on the RNC bandwagon. They have meddled in education matters before. They released a joint letter Tuesday to the Tennessee Board of Education, requesting that the board hold a hearing “to address the public concerns and conduct a review of the framework and materials used in all Advanced Placement courses taught in Tennessee classrooms.”

Guest columnist: Could DesJarlais have another tight race ahead? (Tennessean)
State Sen. Jim Tracy’s concession makes it official: The vote is in. Throughout the whole certification process, I was humming one of my favorite songs, the Don Schlitz-penned Kenny Rogers hit “The Gambler.” You know: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” I wonder if U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais and Tracy hummed along, too, as they sat and waited for the certification of the vote that separated them by a hair. DesJarlais held onto his veritable shoestring of a lead, with a mere 38 votes separating the two. The Republican primary for Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District must have been the tightest race in Tennessee history. If it wasn’t, then it sure must have been close.

Editorial: Military gear in trusted hands with local police (Leaf Chronicle)
There’s a critical difference between the roles of the military and police. Maybe our community understands this better than most because so many of our police have served in the military, sometimes chafing against the expectation that soldiers function as police. So now, amid criticism of the “militarization of police” evident in the Ferguson, Missouri, debacle, we find that the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Clarksville Police Department have been the beneficiaries of about $980,000 worth of donated military gear, including a $733,000 armored mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP. Clarksville Police already owns an armored BearCat vehicle. But this isn’t just a matter of boys collecting toys. This is life and death, and locally it started with the Quicksilver Court standoff.

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