December 13 TN News Digest

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

Haslam announces recipients of grant competition (Associated Press)

Gov. Bill Haslam has announced that 12 agencies from across the state are recipients of a statewide initiative to help residents get more education and training for jobs that are available in their communities. Haslam said in a statement that $10 million in grants were available from the Labor Education Alignment Program competition. Applicants had to represent a partnership between a local economic development agency, a community college, the local school district and at least two employers. The program is part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” campaign to help residents get an education or other training beyond high school.

Gov. Bill Haslam announces LEAP recipients (Bristol Herald-Courier)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced the recipients of the Labor Education Alignment Program competition Thursday. The program is a state effort focused on increasing opportunities for Tennesseans to obtain a certificate or degree beyond high school that is aligned with the needs of the workforce in their communities “These types of intentional partnerships between local agencies and their colleges or TCATS are what we want to see across the state as a significant piece of the Drive to 55 initiative,” Haslam said. “Tying the training and skills that our colleges are teaching directly to current workforce needs will help more Tennesseans qualify for good paying, high quality jobs.”

NTWB receives close to million dollar grant for education (Leaf Chronicle)

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced on Thursday that the North Tennessee Workforce Board will receive $992,037 as part of the Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) competition. LEAP is a state effort focused on increasing opportunities for Tennessee residents to obtain a certificate or degree beyond high school that is aligned with the needs of the workforce in their communities. It is also part of the Governor’s Drive to 55 initiative to equip 55 percent of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate by 2025. The North Tennessee Workforce Board (NTWB), which is administered by Clarksville’s Workforce Essentials, Inc., is comprised of members from across a nine county area to include Cheatham, Dickson, Houston, Humphreys, Montgomery, Robertson, Stewart, Sumner and Williamson Counties.

Bledsoe County Woman Charged With TennCare Fraud (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)

A Bledsoe County woman is charged in an indictment with TennCare fraud involving “doctor shopping,” which is going from doctor to doctor in a short period of time in order to obtain prescription drugs, using TennCare as payment. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with the assistance of the Bledsoe County Sheriff’s Office, arrested of 30-year-old Kimberly Martin, 30, of Pikeville.  She is charged with two counts of doctor shopping using TennCare as payment, and two counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. “The abuse of TennCare benefits, especially to obtain pain medications, is our number one priority,” Inspector General Manny Tyndall said. “Local police, providers and the healthcare community are with us in the effort to weed this problem out of the TennCare program.”

Ramsey: Haslam could ‘sell’ Medicaid expansion in Tenn. (Tennessean/Boucher)

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, thinks Gov. Bill Haslam could “sell” the General Assembly on a plan to expand Medicaid eligibility in Tennessee. Any plan that’s agreeable to the General Assembly is unlikely to have support from federal health officials though, Ramsey said. “I think if the governor can truly revamp the way our Medicaid is run and TennCare is run, then I think he may be able to sell that to the legislature. But I don’t think the Obama administration is ever going to go along with this, I just don’t,” Ramsey told reporters Thursday. This is a new tone for Ramsey, who has repeatedly opposed the idea of Medicaid expansion. More than half of all states have expanded eligibility requirements to allow more people to receive Medicaid health benefits, a move made possible by the Affordable Care Act.

Ramsey favors gas tax hike as part of comprehensive plan (Tennessean/Boucher)

With gas prices dropping, the economy doing better and Gov. Bill Haslam moving into a second term, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville,agreed the timing could be right to raise the state’s gas tax. However, he doesn’t support just raising the tax and not coming up with a comprehensive solution to fix the system for funding roads. And getting a comprehensive bill this session, regardless of whether the timing is good, is unlikely, Ramsey told reporters Thursday. “I am not in favor of just raising just the gas tax. That does not solve our problem. I’m looking for a long-term solution,” Ramsey said. “It’s going to take a very comprehensive bill. The timing is good…but can we have that comprehensive bill ready in time? I don’t know.” Tennessee taxes 21.4 cents per gallon of fuel — Ramsey likes to call it a “user fee” and not a tax — and provides the state more than $650 million a year, according to the state Department of Transportation

Gun control group: Georgia, TN lead in shootings since Sandy Hook (TFP/Omarzu)

Gun violence at schools hasn’t ended since a lone gunman murdered 20 children and six adults and then killed himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., almost two years ago, stirring a national debate about gun control. Almost 100 school shootings have occurred across the country since Sandy Hook, and Georgia and Tennessee are at the top of a list of states with the most such incidents, according to a report published by the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. The group is funded in part a by $50 million donation from New York City’s former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a gun control advocate who’s worth about $35 billion.

Fincher military foreclosure bill awaits Obama’s signature (C. Appeal/Collins)

U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher’s bill to provide another year of foreclosure protection for military personnel leaving active duty is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. The House voted Friday to give final approval to the Stability for Servicemembers Act, which prohibits foreclosure protection currently given to military members from expiring at the end of the year. The Senate approved the bill Thursday. Existing law provides for a year of post-military foreclosure protection to give service members time to get on their feet financially and avoid the stress of potentially losing their home. That protection was set to expire at the end of the year. Fincher’s bill extends the protection for another year.

Cohen ‘regrets’ Eli, Peyton Manning sex assault comment (Tennessean/Boucher)

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, said the congressman intended to point out NFL quarterbacks Eli Manning and Peyton Manning are in committed marriages when he said the pair don’t sexually assault people “other than their wives.” TMZ Sports asked the congressman about the allegations against Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Sammie Hill, who is accused of sexual assault. Hill and his attorney say the allegations are bogus. Cohen told the reporter he didn’t know who Hill was, then added a comment about Eli Manning and Peyton Manning, the popular former quarterback for the University of Tennessee. “I don’t keep up with football, except college football, except Eli Manning or Peyton Manning. And Eli and Peyton don’t do sexual assaults against people other than their wives,” Cohen said, according to a video posted online by TMZ Sports.

Senate Set to Approve $1.1 Trillion in Spending (New York Times)

The Senate on Friday struggled to pass a $1.1 trillion spending package notable for its expansive spending on military and disease fighting abroad, as well as its scaling back of financial and environmental regulations at home. In a late-night twist that is emblematic of the dysfunction plaguing the 113th Congress, partisan maneuvering in the Senate disrupted what leaders on both sides had expected to be a relatively smooth path toward final passage. Though the spending deal is still almost sure to pass, the Senate did not reach an agreement late Friday. Lawmakers plan to reconvene on Saturday and work through the weekend if necessary.

ORNL workers exposed to radiation during work on secret project (N-S/Munger)

At least eight workers received internal radiation doses while carrying out a classified project earlier this year at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. ORNL Deputy Director Jeff Smith confirmed the Aug. 25 incident, which involved an unexpected airborne release of radioactive material. But he said he couldn’t discuss details because of the classified nature of the work. The laboratory was performing the work for the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, he said. The lab monitored workers who inhaled radioactive particles for an unspecified period following the incident, using biological samples to determine their internal exposures. Smith characterized the radiation doses as “minor” and said they were well below the level — 500 millirems — that requires the lab to report the incident to the Department of Energy.

State-run Achievement School District set to take over five schools (CA/Roberts)

The Achievement School District will take over five schools in Memphis next fall converting them into charter schools in what will be the fourth year of the state experiment to improve schools in the city where the track record is the worst. Capstone Education, the local charter that more than two years ago took over Lester School in Binghamton, will run Denver Elementary in Frayser. Brookemeade Elementary in Frayser will be run by Libertas School, a local charter opening its first school. Florida-Kansas, in extreme South Memphis, will be run by Scholar Academies, a Philadelphia-based operator that is also new to Memphis. Airways Middle will be run by YES Prep, new to Memphis. Green Dot Public Schools, the California-based charter that took over Fairley High this year, will run Wooddale Middle.

State Picks Nashville’s Neely’s Bend Middle School For Takeover (WPLN)

The state will take control of Nashville’s Neely’s Bend Middle School next fall. The Achievement School District, which is charged with turning around low-performers, made the announcement Friday afternoon.vState officials had narrowed their choice to either Neely’s Bend or Madison. Both have standardized test scores that fall in the state’s bottom five percent.vThe ASD received stiff resistance at a pair of parent meetings last week. But superintendent Chris Barbic says in a statement that better decisions were made because time was taken to listen to parents.vBarbic’s office released quotes from a handful of parents who favor charter conversion. “I only want what’s best and if Lead Academy will support my daughter academically, then we will support Lead Academy,” mother Claudia Gonzales said in a written statement distributed by the ASD.

Target, Cummins Seek 15-Year Tax Breaks (Memphis Daily News)

Memphis and Shelby County are offering generous tax incentives to attract and retain hundreds of jobs. Discount retailer Target and Cummins Inc. are seeking tax breaks for projects that total 1,429 jobs. Target could receive a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-tax abatement, or PILOT, for a $52 million online fulfillment center that will employ 462 people. The PILOT would save Target around $12 million over 15 years while producing a local tax benefit of $27.2 million, according to the city-county Economic Development Growth Engine. The average annual wage for the jobs would be $28,456. Target announced Thursday, Dec. 11, that it plans on leasing the 900,000-square-foot building at 5461 Davidson Road in Southeast Memphis for the fulfillment center.

Chattanooga’s gateway U.S. Pipe-Wheland site gets new focus (Times Free-Press)

Chattanooga’s growing business reputation coupled with a more robust economy means now is the right time to make a new push to redevelop a gateway tract in the city, its landowners say. The 141-acre parcel on Chattanooga’s Southside that for many years held the U.S. Pipe and Wheland foundries will garner a multi-faceted marketing effort from a pair of national companies, said Mike Mallen, a partner in owner Perimeter Properties. Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate services company, and Baker Storey McDonald Properties, which focuses on retail properties, will help steer the site’s redevelopment, Mallen said. “The time is right to put together a team,” he said.





Editorial: Landing $35 million grant to expand prekindergarten is major coup (CA)

Garnering $35 million to expand prekindergarten seats here is a major accomplishment for advocates of pre-K education and its impact on young children entering kindergarten and first grade ready to learn. Yet what must not be lost in the glow of this accomplishment is whether the community can muster the financial resources to sustain the additional seats when the grant money runs out. Memphis and Nashville will split a $70 million grant spread over four years. The grant was announced Wednesday at the White House Early Childhood Education Summit. Memphis will use its share to create 200 to 400 extra pre-K seats. In three years, when classroom space is at capacity, 6,300 children will be receiving a year of free preschool here. That is 1,000 more than the current capacity in the state-funded program.

  • sugardog

    Tennessee taxes 21.4 cents per gallon of fuel — Ramsey likes to call it a “user fee” and not a tax — and provides the state more than $650 million a year, according to the state Department of Transportation

  • sugardog

    What about the wheel tax /? 60.00 to register a automobile in Knox Co. wasn’t that supposed to build the roads & bridges ? and plus the 21.00 % gas tax together should be plenty of funds Mr. Ramsey & Mr. Corker answer that please !