October 9 TN News Digest

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

Haslam to attend Hankook groundbreaking ceremony (Associated Press)
Gov. Bill Haslam is scheduled to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the Hankook Tire plant to be built in Clarksville. The event is set to start at 11 a.m. on Thursday. Hankook, the world’s seventh-largest tire maker, announced last year that it will build the $800 million facility in Clarksville. It’s expected to create 1,800 jobs. The Tennessee State Funding Board approved $16 million in incentives for the project Wednesday. Hankook officials plan to begin making high-end performance tires by early 2016. Clarksville is also home to a steel cord plant for Japanese tire maker Bridgestone, which has its Americas headquarters in Nashville. Nissan, General Motors and Volkswagen have assembly plants in Tennessee, and more than 900 further automotive sector companies are active in the state.

Haslam, Charlie Daniels, more to be honored in Nashville (Tennessean/Paulson)
Nashville certainly hosts its share of awards ceremonies, but it’d be tough to find another one with a range of honorees like this: Governor Bill Haslam, WSMV anchor Demetria Kalodimos and music stars Michael W. Smith and Charlie Daniels are among six figures being recognized next month for the Nashville Association of Talent Directors’ fourth annual Honors Gala. The November 11 event at the Hermitage Hotel will also honor Vanderbilt University Baseball head coach Tim Corbin, Rob Beckham of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment and J.P. Williams of Parallel Entertainment.

Under Armour gets tax breaks (Associated Press)
Tennessee officials have approved a $6.75 million incentive for Under Armour’s planned distribution facility in Mount Juliet. The Tennessee State Funding Board on Wednesday approved a FastTrack Economic Development Program grant. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development recommended the incentive. The sports apparel maker announced last week it plans to build a new $100 million distribution center projected to create 1,500 new jobs in the next five years. The money approved Wednesday is for equipment relocation, construction and related improvements and will go through the city of Mt. Juliet.

State OKs $6.75M in incentives for Under Armour’s Mt. Juliet hub (NBJ)
The Tennessee State Funding Board Wednesday approved $6.75 million in state funds for Under Armour as the Baltimore sportswear company builds a new distribution hub in Mt. Juliet. The incentives are part of the state’s FastTrack Economic Development Program and are designed to assist Under Armour with “equipment relocation, construction and improvements for the new facility,” according to a request from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Under Armour last week said it will build an initial 1-million-square-foot distribution hub in Mt. Juliet, expected to employ 1,500 within five years.

Job fair for veterans to be held on Thursday (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Marcum)
Tennessee has been one of the biggest states in terms of military deployments and it’s time to help returning servicemen and servicewomen with jobs, said Tennessee Adjutant General Max Haston. A statewide job fair planned for Thursday is a step in that direction, Haston said. Paychecks for Patriots will take place in 10 cities across the state, and in Knoxville it will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church, 701 Merchant Drive. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Dollar General Corp. and other companies are sponsoring the event. More than 200 employers are participating. Burns Phillips, Tennessee’s labor commissioner, said companies will actually be hiring at the event.

Paychecks for Patriots job fair held statewide (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
More than 200 employers will be looking to hire veterans at a statewide hiring event Thursday. The third annual Paychecks for Patriots career fair will be taking place at 10 locations across Tennessee. Knoxville’s fair will be at Wallace Memorial Baptist Church at 701 Merchant Drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Organizers say more than 30 employers will be there looking to fill positions including Dollar General, Shoffner Kalthoff Mechanical Electrical Service, AutoZone, and FedEx. There’s still time to register to attend.

Enterovirus 68 confirmed in 2 in Tennessee (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Department of Health says two cases of a virus that has been causing severe respiratory illness across the country have been confirmed in Tennessee. Both cases of enterovirus 68 involved young children, one in East Tennessee and one in West Tennessee. The agency says both children were hospitalized but have been released and are doing well. They are the first cases confirmed in the state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website said a total of 664 people in 45 states and the District of Columbia have been confirmed to have respiratory illness caused by the virus. The CDC said the virus was detected in specimens from five patients who died.

Enterovirus confirmed in Tennessee (Tennessean/Wilemon)
Laboratory tests have confirmed that a children’s respiratory virus spreading across the United States has made its way to Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Health said Wednesday it had received notification from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that two young children in Tennessee had tested positive for enterovirus D68, a subtype of the illness that was not widespread until this year. Both children were hospitalized but recovered and are now back in their homes. While the children are from West Tennessee and East Tennessee, state health officials said other cases are likely. Doctors at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt have treated patients with symptoms consistent with the illness, but as of Wednesday afternoon none of them had been confirmed as enterovirus D68.

Tennessee reports first confirmed cases of enterovirus D68 (N-S/Nelson)
Two young Tennessee children — one in East Tennessee and one in West Tennessee — had enterovirus D-68, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday. Both children were hospitalized with the respiratory illness, which has been sweeping the nation, but are now home and “doing well,” said Tennessee Department of Health officials. The two are the first lab-confirmed cases of enterovirus D in the state, which until Wednesday was one of only four states in the continental U.S. to have no confirmed cases. “We have now confirmed two cases, while other samples have tested positive for different, common, seasonal cold viruses,” said state health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner. “It is also likely other samples will test positive for EV-D68 in the future.”

CDC Confirms 2 Cases Of Enterovirus D68 In Tennessee (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed at least two cases of Enterovirus D68 in Tennessee. On Wednesday, the CDC included Tennessee on its list of states with confirmed cases of the virus. The Tennessee Department of Health said one patient lives in West Tennessee, while the other lives in East Tennessee. Both were said to be young children, who were hospitalized for the illness, but have since been discharged. The children, whose names and ages were not known, were said to be doing well. “As expected, Tennessee has been impacted by enterovirus D68 as have most other states this fall,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH.

2 confirmed cases of Enterovirus in Tennessee, one in East Tenn. (WATE-TV)
The Tennessee Department of Health says two cases of Enterovirus D68 have been confirmed in Tennessee, one in West Tennessee and one in East Tennessee. State health officials say both cases were with young children who were hospitalized but are now home and doing well. “As expected, Tennessee has been impacted by Enterovirus D68 as have most other states this fall,” said TDH Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner. “We have now confirmed two cases, while other samples have tested positive for different, common, seasonal cold viruses. It is also likely other samples will test positive for EV-D68 in the future.” According to the CDC website, Tennessee is one of 45 states, along with the District of Columbia, where at least one case of the virus has been confirmed.

TDOT weighing closure of bridge during interchange construction (CA/Charlier)
Tennessee transportation officials are considering a recommendation to temporarily shut down the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge over the Mississippi River beginning next year to accommodate construction of a new interchange at Interstate 55 and Crump Boulevard. The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s structures division recommended closing the bridge, which carries I-55 traffic across the river, for an undetermined period of time, said Nichole Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the department. A final decision on the recommendation won’t be made until after public meetings are conducted involving the department and residents, local officials and business groups in the three-state area. “We are trying to make sure that that’s the best option,” Lawrence said of a shutdown.

Judge OKs trial for ex-trooper (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Satterfield)
A Knoxville-based state trooper who is a Sunni Muslim lost his job after he was labeled a potential Jihadist. Now, a federal judge is giving the green light to a trial in U.S. District Court in a religious discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of fired Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper De’Ossie Dingus against the state Department of Safety. U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell has set a Nov. 17 trial date after ruling a recorded conversation between a military liaison and a Department of Safety commander is proof on its face the agency fired Dingus based on an unsupported conclusion Dingus was ripe to be “turned” into a terrorist. The 2010 firing of Dingus has its roots in a November 2009 training session for troopers by Department of Homeland Security military liaison Maj. Kevin Taylor.

Appeals court rules against Occupy Nashville (Associated Press/Loller)
Two top Tennessee officials are protected from claims that they violated the rights of Occupy Nashville protesters who were arrested on a plaza outside the state Capitol in October 2011, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. The protesters sued after Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons and former General Services Commissioner Steven Cates – responding to reports of crime and sanitation problems – implemented a last-minute curfew for the War Memorial Plaza and then had those who refused to leave arrested. The curfew policy was later withdrawn and replaced, meaning the only remaining claims were those against Gibbons and Cates. As individuals, they could be sued for monetary damages.

Tainted justice? Sometimes electing judges carries risks (Tennessean/Haas)
Opponents of Amendment 2 want voters to decide Tennessee’s high-court judges in contested elections. But if evidence from some states is any indication, they may want to be careful what they wish for. Research shows that contested elections for high-court judges have led to problems at times, whether it’s the influence of huge sums of campaign dollars, the political polarization of the electorate or the added pressure of voter expectations that can sometimes lead to skewed justice. One needs look no further than Alabama for horror stories. In that state, judges have been accused of deciding cases after getting millions in campaign contributions from one of the parties.

Group opposes judicial selection change on November ballot in Tenn. (T-N)
The Vote NO on 2! Committee says that state constitution Amendment 2 on the November ballot in Tennessee would take away the right for state residents to elect judges. If approved, the amendment — one of four on the ballot Nov. 4 — would change judicial selection to allow the governor to appoint judges subject to confirmation by the Tennessee General Assembly. “In essence our state constitution gives the public the right to judge judges who judge us,” said John Avery Emison, state coordinator for Vote NO on 2! Committee. “It’s a step away from self-government and a step away from democracy to give up our right to vote and elect our own officials.

States Let Voters Rule on Judges (Governing)
A number of states this election season are seeking to change the ways that judges either get their jobs or keep them. From retirement ages to gubernatorial appointments to judicial elections, the changes are driven by politics and practicality. The following is a breakdown of the main themes. Retirement age Hawaii is seeking to increase the age to 80 from 70 years old and Louisiana wants to eliminate its mandatory retirement age of 70 altogether. A total of 21 states have a mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges and 11 states plus the District of Columbia have retirement ages above age 70. Eighteen states do not have a mandatory retirement age.

Supermarkets hope to toast wine sales (Johnson City Press)
It has been a long, hard road for food retailers in Tennessee hoping to line their shelves with wine bottles, but with the finish line in sight, Steve Smith reminded customers not to start the victory lap until the race is over. At a meeting Wednesday of The Press’ editorial board, Smith, CEO of Food City parent company K-VA-T, said the biggest fear of the five grocery retailers who worked for nearly a decade to gain legislative approval for wine sales in their stores is low voter turnout. “They may have seen the petition drive and signed it, thinking they got their town approved for wine in grocery stores, but it’s not approved until they vote on it,” he said. Petitioners in 78 municipalities, including each of the Tri-Cities, Jonesborough and Elizabethton, achieved the prerequisite number of signatures to trigger wine-in-food-store referendums on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Sen. Alexander sheds feel-good image in Tenn. Race (Associated Press/Schelzig)
Forget the syrupy, feel-good message so common to Lamar Alexander’s past political campaigns. This time, the Tennessee Republican is going into attack mode. With early voting in the U.S. Senate race set to kick off next week, the two-term incumbent has unleashed two television ads hammering his previously little-known Democratic opponent, Gordon Ball, as a proxy for President Barack Obama and as a “slick-talking personal injury lawyer.” It’s a far cry from past general elections that featured ads heavy on imagery of Alexander’s past triumphs as governor – or even from the recently-concluded Republican primary in which he declined to even mention his opponent by name.

Senate poll: Alexander leading Ball (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sher)
A new poll shows Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander leads Democratic challenger Gordon Ball by 21 points, but with his overall support hovering just above 50 percent, the two-term incumbent is taking no chances and bashing Ball at every opportunity. The snapshot of 1,007 likely voters’ preferences was conducted from Sept. 20-Oct. 1 for CBS News, The New York Times and YouGov. It shows Alexander leading Ball, a wealthy Knoxville attorney, by 53 to 32 percent. The poll found 12 percent undecided and 2 percent prefer “other” candidates. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent, which means Alexander could be as low as 49 percent while Ball could be as high as 36 percent with room to grow — if Ball can become better known on his own terms.

Colleges’ Wider Search for Applicants Crowds Out Local Students (Wall St. Journal)
Last spring, Nicholas Anthony graduated as co-valedictorian of Malibu High School with a résumé that included straight A’s, top marks on nine advanced placement exams, varsity quarterback and baritone horn in the wind ensemble. But Mr. Anthony didn’t get into the top two public schools in his home state: the University of California, Berkeley or the University of California, Los Angeles. Instead, he is going to Brown University, an Ivy League school which will cost over $100,000 more during four years. Mr. Anthony’s experience is an example of an aftershock still reverberating across higher education in the wake of the recession: Qualified residents are getting crowded out of their state universities by students paying higher tuition from out-of-state and foreign countries.

TVA adds secured backup for Watts Bar as utility wins praise (TFP/Flessner)
Within an $80 million concrete building anchored to the bedrock of the highest point at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, the Tennessee Valley Authority is storing enough pumps, generators and other equipment to respond to most any type of earthquake, storm or missile attack. “The next time a tornado comes through East Tennessee, this is the building you want to be in,” U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said after touring the just-completed Flex building Wednesday. TVA is the first U.S. utility to complete the new backup facility, which regulators are ordering to be built at most nuclear plants to avoid a disaster like the one three years ago when an earthquake and tsunami destroyed Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

TVA takes steps to avoid Fukushima problems with new reactor (WBIR-TV Knox)
After years of delays, construction and testing of the country’s first nuclear reactor in nearly two decades is well underway in East Tennessee. Part of the project includes implementing lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Tennessee Valley Authority constructed what it calls a “FLEX” building to house the Watts Bar backup generators. It’s a 47-ton concrete building that is waterproof, tornado-proof, and earthquake-proof. According to Mike Skaggs, TVA Senior Vice President, the building features around 150 micropiles that tie it to the bedrock. U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander toured the site with TVA officials on Wednesday morning.

Healthy economy for Music City (Tennessean/Williams)
Nashville’s economy is expected to cross the $100 billion mark for the first time this year, according to a recent report by IHS Global. In 2013, Nashville’s economy ranked as one of the fastest-growing in the country. The city ranks third in the country based on the rate of growth of the gross metropolitan product, or GMP, which measures the value of all goods and services produced within a metropolitan area. During 2013, Nashville grew its GMP by 4.2 percent, double the national average of 2.1 percent growth. In terms of GMP growth, only Austin, Texas, and San Jose, Calif., beat out Nashville. Nashville’s growth reflects an overall national trend — the increasing economic importance of urban areas. “Metropolitan areas continued to be the beating heart of the US economy in 2013,” the report said.

Feds say Robertson County schools must rezone (Tennessean/Young)
The Robertson County Board of Education revealed a mandatory, district-wide rezoning plan Monday night after federal investigators determined that the county failed to desegregate schools. The board was notified early last month that federal authorities had completed their investigation into the district and that they will be required to enter into a settlement agreement “in order to avoid litigation by the United States Department of Justice, and the potential loss of all federal funds to the Robertson County School District,” according to a letter posted to the school system’s website from Robertson County Director of Schools Mike Davis. As part of the settlement, the district is required to adopt new attendance zones, developed by the U.S. Department of Justice, for all of its schools, Davis said Monday.






Editorial: Paychecks for Patriots deserves commendation (Daily News Journal)
Paychecks for Patriots is an excellent example of a public-private partnership in which everyone benefits. Scheduled today at 10 locations across the state, the program’s intent is to help veterans of the armed forces find gainful employment. Cooperating in developing the program has been the state Department of Labor & Workforce Development, the state Military Department and private businesses led by Dollar General. Other state departments and agencies also are supporting Paychecks for Patriots. More than 170 companies will be participating in the job fairs across the state today, and the closest event to Rutherford County will be at LP Field in Nashville. More than 50 companies will be participating in the Nashville event.

Roy Herron: Amendment 1 would destroy, not ‘neutralize’ rights (Tennessean)
During early voting or on Nov. 4, you will vote on a state constitutional amendment to strip a woman of her right to make a terribly difficult, personal decision. Instead of letting a woman decide with her faith, her family and her doctor, Amendment 1 would let politicians restrict and potentially prohibit all abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest or even to save a woman’s life. Tea party Republicans say they want to “neutralize” the state constitution on abortion. But what if politicians wanted to “neutralize” our First Amendment right to free speech, leaving it to politicians to decide whether we citizens can criticize the government? Or would we want politicians to “neutralize” the First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause, so they can decide how or whether we can worship God?