December 20 TN News Digest

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

Haslam on economic incentives, Memphis’ cooperation (C. Appeal/Veazey)

Near the end of Gov. Bill Haslam’s visit to The Commercial Appeal’s editorial board Thursday afternoon to discuss Insure Tennessee, the governor entertained questions on all sorts of topics. But perhaps the most interesting give-and-take came on a series of questions that involved a hot topic in our area in recent months: tax incentives to attract jobs. First, Haslam was asked about the recent state incentives to bring a new Target distribution center to town. In his response, he said more developments could be on the horizon. “There’s a couple of things that I can’t reveal right now that are kind of in the pipeline that Memphis is a finalist for,” Haslam said. “I feel good about having a lot of stuff in the pipeline. Now, this deal’s like anything else, whatever goes in the front end of the pipeline doesn’t necessarily come out the back.” Haslam said Memphis “has been really competitive” on various fronts recently, citing the retention of Cummins Diesel as an example.

Tennessee posts impressive manufacturing numbers (Memphis Biz Journal)

Memphis led the way for Tennessee’s third straight year of gaining manufacturing jobs. According to the 2015 Tennessee Manufacturers Register, since September 2012, the state has recovered 17 percent of jobs lost during the recession. That rate of recovery is outpacing the total U.S. gain by 3.3 percent. The Manufacturer’s Register is published by Manufacturers’ News Inc. The report said Tennessee has added 4,473 industrial jobs from September 2013 to September 2014. The state is home to 6,828 manufacturers employing 388,991 workers, a 3.9 percent increase in the state’s manufacturing jobs since September 2012. Memphis employs 36,169 workers, while Nashville ranks second with 27,261 jobs. Chattanooga accounts for 22,699 jobs, and Knoxville has 15,546 jobs.

Hospital Association’s Huge Role In Tenn’s Medicaid Expansion Explained (WPLN)

The deal Gov. Bill Haslam struck with the Tennessee Hospital Association as part of his push to expand Medicaid in Tennessee is being closely followed by state leaders and hospital executives in other states that have resisted expanding coverage as part of the president’s healthcare law. The deal was proposed to Haslam more than a year ago, according to Craig Becker, who heads the THA. Since Haslam’s unveiling, several of Becker’s counterparts in other Southern states have called him to explore whether it’s a model that can be replicated. The fact that Haslam now heads the Republican Governors’ Association shouldn’t hurt in terms of rallying support among other state leaders.

Metro cements incentives for Bridgestone’s downtown headquarters (NBJ)

Right before Christmas, Nashville’s Metro government finished approving its share of a roughly $100 million incentives deal that motivated Bridgestone to keep its U.S. headquarters in town. Bridgestone Americas already employs 1,112 people at headquarters along Briley Parkway, near Nashville International Airport. In one of this year’s signature economic development moves, Bridgestone is moving six miles to SoBro, landing on a corner of Fourth Avenue South and Demonbreun Street. As part of the move, Bridgestone is relocating business units currently outside of Chicago and in central Indiana — adding 600 more jobs to the new-and-improved Nashville headquarters. A 9-0 vote Friday by Metro’s Industrial Development Board, and the document signing that immediately followed, made Bridgestone’s benefits official.

Former caretaker charged with TennCare fraud (Tennessean/Meyer)

Special agents have arrested a former caretaker who the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says mistreated a Davidson County Medicaid recipient in her care. A grand jury indicted 32-year-old Brandie Lynn Carver in September on charges of TennCare fraud, identity theft, theft above $1,000, abuse of an impaired adult and fraudulent use of a credit card, the TBI said in a news release. Information from the Department of Human Services’ Adult Protective Services unit prompted agents to start investigating Carver on Jan. 22. The alleged mistreatment occurred while Carver worked for Blossom Health Services from 2012 to 2014, TBI said.

Attorneys predict court won’t release executioners’ names (Tenn/Barchenger)

They are three women and two men. Three are appointees of a Democratic governor; two were handpicked by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. The most senior member has served since 2005; the newest joined the bench in September. Those five members of the Tennessee Supreme Court are charged with deciding whether to release, on a limited basis, the names of people involved in executions in the Volunteer State. No one knows how the court will come down on the issue. But The Tennessean asked attorneys who have worked with or closely watched the court to analyze the issues in the case and predict how the justices might rule. Attorney Mark Fulks has argued about 45 cases before the court, most of those during his 12-year stint with the state attorney general’s office. Last year, he was considered as a selection for state attorney general.

Tenn. GOP leader to undergo cancer treatment (Associated Press)

A GOP leader in the state Senate says he has been diagnosed with cancer and plans to undergo treatment. Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro told media on Thursday that he has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He said in a statement that the cancer was found last month after he discovered a lump in his neck. Ketron said he wanted to inform his constituents “firsthand” about his condition. “Just about everyone knows someone who has cancer or has personally experienced it,” he noted. “I want to be up-front with the people in my district about the challenges I am facing and follow in the footsteps of so many brave citizens who have brought awareness to this disease.” Treatments are expected to take him away from his duties for only a brief period.

Ketron to start treatment for cancer (Daily News Journal)

Murfreesboro state Sen. Bill Ketron announced Thursday he has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer, and will soon start receiving treatment for the disease. Ketron, also the Senate Republican Caucus chair, said the cancer was discovered last month after he found a small lump in his neck. “I will be receiving chemotherapy in the coming weeks, and my doctors are optimistic the treatment will be effective,” Ketron said. While there are many types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to the National Cancer Institute, it is best described as a disease in which cancer cells form in the lymph system, which is part of the immune system. It can occur in both adults and children.

EPA coal ash standards a setback for environ. groups (AP/Lovan, Loller, Capiello)

Six years ago, there was a massive spill of coal ash sludge in Tennessee. Three years later, tons of coal ash swept into Lake Michigan. Last February, there was another spill and gray sludge spewed into the Dan River in North Carolina. With each disaster, environmentalists sounded alarms and called for the byproduct of burning coal to be treated as hazardous waste. On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the first standards for the coal-burning waste, but they were hardly what environmental groups were hoping for. The EPA ruled that the ash can be treated like regular garbage, meaning regulating the stuff will be left up to states and watchful citizens.

Quarrel over proposed schools settlement has roots in missed meeting (CA/Veazey)

The proposed settlement between the city of Memphis and Shelby County Schools involves tens of millions of dollars, runs more than a decade and has further inflamed City Hall’s tempestuous political tenor. And it all started with a simple scheduling mix-up. On Dec. 8, SCS Supt. Dorsey Hopson arrived at the office of a mediator assigned to settle the dispute — but others involved in the talks weren’t there. He called the City Council’s attorney, who said the meeting was actually scheduled for Jan. 8. It didn’t sit well Hopson, who had cleared his schedule. So later that day, he reached out to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton with designs on a deal. “And maybe it was an honest mistake — but maybe it wasn’t,” Hopson said. “So that just really prompted me to reach back out to Mayor Wharton.”

Shelby County to continue commitment to pre-K funding (C. Appeal/Moore)

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell didn’t go to prekindergarten. “They didn’t have kindergarten when I was growing up, and I don’t think I could read and write until I got to first grade,” Luttrell said this week. “But in this day and age it’s just a necessity that you have that, and pre-K is another means of doing it.” So, even with the infusion of cash from a recently awarded $35 million, four-year federal grant, Luttrell says his administration won’t back away from its commitment to fund pre-K. The county contributed $3 million this year, enough for 20 additional pre-K classrooms, and will include that money in future budgets, Luttrell said. “We’ll continue to commit to $3 million as we move forward, so when you take that with the $35 million, you’re talking about a significant amount of money,” he said.

StoneCrest penalized over control of infections (Daily News Journal)

Medicare is cutting payments to five Middle Tennessee hospitals because of failures to control healthcare-associated infections and prevent serious complications. Gateway Medical Center in Clarksville, Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital, TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center, Tristar Southern Hills Medical Center and TriStar Stonecrest Medical Center were among the 721 hospitals nationwide that will received reduced payments, according to Kaiser Health News. StoneCrest is working at remedying its issues, spokeswoman Kimberly Johnson said in response to the report. “We have taken significant steps to reduce infections, which are an issue for hospitals across the country,” Johnson said.