January 17 TN News Digest

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

Gov. Haslam to be inaugurated Sunday (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
Bill Haslam will begin a second term as Tennessee’s 49th governor at an outdoor inauguration ceremony Saturday on Legislative Plaza across from the State Capitol. The inauguration will be broadcast live on Tennessee’s six PBS stations, including East Tennessee PBS Knoxville and WKNO Memphis, and livestreamed on the state legislature’s website, www.capitol.tn.gov, beginning at 11 a.m. Central and noon Eastern. The inauguration ceremony occurs during a joint session of the state Legislature with Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell presiding.

Haslam to stress unity theme in inauguration to 2nd term (A. Press/Schelzig)
The unity theme of Gov. Bill Haslam’s inauguration to second term as governor is already being put to the test by wrangling over his proposal to extend health coverage to 200,000 low-income Tennesseans. Haslam won 70 percent of the vote in his re-election bid last November against nominal Democratic opposition, carrying all 95 counties in the process. The motto of Haslam’s inauguration celebration is “Together for Tennessee,” and the governor has said his goals for the next four years include job creation, education and more efficiency in state government.

Haslam’s Second Inaugural To Take Place Saturday (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
Gov. Bill Haslam will officially be sworn in tomorrow for a second term. Haslam’s inauguration ceremony takes place at 11 a.m. atop War Memorial Plaza. Streets near the Capitol will be closed for the event. The day also includes an 8:30 prayer service at Ryman Auditorium and a dinner and ball at the Omni Nashville Hotel. Tickets to those events have been sold out. Costs of the ceremony and celebrations are being covered through private donations to the Haslam Inaugural Committee. A list of contributors will be released next month.

Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam inauguration is Saturday (WJHL-TV Johnson City)
Saturday, Bill Haslam will begin his second term as Tennessee’s 49th governor at an outdoor inaugural ceremony in Nashville. The Governor said in a statement, “‘Together for Tennessee’ is the theme of this inaugural celebration and together is how we will achieve a better future for Tennessee”. The inaugural ceremony will be livestreamed at Capitol.TN.gov around 12:30 PM. After Saturday’s festivities lawmakers go on a two week break.

Gov. Haslam’s inauguration set for Saturday (WKRN-TV Nashville)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam will be sworn in for his second term of office Saturday at Legislative Plaza. The inaugural events will begin with a prayer service at 8:30 a.m. at the Ryman Auditorium. The swearing-in ceremony will follow at 11 a.m. at Legislative Plaza. Following the event, the state is offering tours of the newly renovated state capitol from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. On Sunday, the governor and first lady will host an open house at the Tennessee Residence in Oak Hill from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

How Bill Haslam got his First Lady (Tennessean/Schmitt)
It seemed like this guy was everywhere. In 1976, the future first lady of Tennessee headed to prestigious Emory University in Atlanta with the goal of academic success. She had been student body president at a private all-girls high school in Memphis, getting only one C (in chemistry) in four years there. And she planned on staying focused on classes in college. But this boy, this fellow first-year student, he kept popping up — three times in the first week they were on campus. “We should’ve known something was going on, right?” said Crissy Haslam, who is set to start her second term as first lady after husband Gov. Bill Haslam’s gubernatorial inauguration Saturday morning.

Crissy Haslam’s mom left mill town to become nurse, educator (Tennessean/Scmitt)
Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam started hearing about the importance of education — again and again — when she was a little girl. Her dad was a physician, and her mom was a nurse and educator, and they repeatedly pushed their children to do well in school, to go to college. “They were a little too demanding sometimes,” Haslam said, smiling, “but I’m thankful for that now.” Haslam would find out later that both of her parents were the first in their families to go to college, so they developed a proselytizer’s zeal for higher education Haslam’s mother, Christine (Chris) Garrett, now 86, came from humble beginnings.

Education think tank wants higher standards for teachers (WSMV-TV Nashville)
Tennessee’s largest independent watchdog of schools wants higher standards for teachers in the coming year. SCORE and its leader, former U.S. Sen. Dr. Bill Frist, have asked the state legislature to leave standards untouched this year. The group said those standards need to be studied by a special task force. The organization is calling 2015 the year of the teacher in Tennessee – more money for educators, more training and higher standards to be a teacher. “We want to continue to strive to have the highest expectations,” said Jamie Woodson, SCORE executive director.

SCORE Sets Educational Priorities (WTVF-TV Nashville)
What Tennessee students and educators have been able to do over the past couple of years is nothing short of historic. A new report from the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) says the future of that progress is now at stake and will be hotly debated this legislative session. “We want to be the best of the best as a state,” SCORE President Jamie Woodson said. “We don’t want to be best of the bottom half.” Replacing the TCAP exams and making decisions about Common Core topped the list. It comes as momentum is building to repeal the state standards. Currently,Common Core is under review.

THP: Improved drunken driving marks took years of reach (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
Mothers Against Drunk Driving is giving Tennessee high marks for working to prevent drunken driving. The Tennessee Highway Patrol says that’s progress that’s been years in the making. THP has made DUI enforcement a priority for the last few years. DUI arrests increased by 20 to 30 percent each year in that time period. Lt. Don Boshears says THP is glad the state was recognized for its efforts, but the work isn’t finished yet. “So we would be honored that we’ve been rated high, but we’re not gonna rest on that,” he said.

Amerigroup keeping tabs on call center linked to long TennCare hold times (WJHL)
The Bureau of TennCare is not the only one keeping an eye on a new Memphis call center responsible for long hold times throughout most of this month. As we reported earlier this week, hundreds of people on TennCare spent the last two weeks struggling to get through to a call center that is supposed to help them set up rides for doctors’ appointments. Earlier this week, a TennCare spokesperson told us Tennessee Carriers has since added new staff, extended its hours and opened more phone lines to address the long hold times. TennCare also reported those times are now back where they should be, between two and three minutes.

Tennessee high court to hear Vanderbilt rape case records appeal (TN/Wadhwani)
The Tennessee Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal by The Tennessean and other media groups over access to records in the rape case against four former Vanderbilt football players. The trial for two of the players accused in the alleged rape of a 21-year-old woman in a campus dorm in June 2013 is underway in downtown Nashville. Two other former players also face charges in the case. The Tennessean, eight media organizations and the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government filed suit against Metro Nashville government last fall seeking access to records in the case that were not created by government entities but were in the hands of police — records including text messages between Vanderbilt football coaches and players.

House, Senate at odds over who goes first on Medicaid plan (Associated Press)
Republican leaders in the state House and Senate are at odds about who should go first on taking up Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to extend health coverage to more than 200,000 low-income Tennesseans. The governor has called a special session starting Feb. 2 to consider the proposal that many Republicans are wary of because it would tap federal money available under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Tennessee chambers scuffle over health procedures (Times Free-Press/Sher)
The special session for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan doesn’t begin until Feb. 2. Despite that, it’s already off to a rollicking start as top House and Senate GOP leaders began quarreling Friday over which chamber first takes up the proposal. Among Republicans, who dominate both chambers with super majorities, the immediate issue on Friday was Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey’s insistence on making House committees and then the entire chamber vote first on approving Haslam’s joint resolution before the Senate proceeds. It takes both chambers to give Haslam the OK to move ahead.

Insure Tennessee to go before special session (Daily News Journal)
As House and Senate Republican leaders butt heads over how to move forward on Gov. Bill Haslam’s landmark health care plan, Haslam believes they can work together to make sure the proposal doesn’t fail before the start of a special session. “I think the people of Tennessee want this to be heard. They don’t want some procedural issue to stop this from being heard,” Haslam said Friday morning. “I’m confident leadership will figure out a way to do that.” The fight is the latest evidence Haslam’s plan to extend health care coverage to 200,000 Tennesseans faces an uphill battle in the General Assembly.

‘Insure TN’ Brouhaha Brewing Between House, Senate? (TN Report)
Disagreement appears to have developed between the Republican-dominated chambers of the General Assembly over how to handle Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” proposal scheduled for discussion in a special session beginning Feb. 2. On Thursday, leaders of the Tennessee Senate’s GOP supermajority indicated the upper chamber will be holding off on committee votes on the issue until the House approves a resolution authorizing Tennessee to sign up for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion funding.

Wheels coming off over which chamber would vote first on Insure Tenn plan (NP)
The Senate wants the House to vote first on the governor’s Insure Tennessee plan, a scheme the majority leader in the lower chamber says is “silly” and “preposterous.” “I think they want us to carry the load for them,” said Gerald McCormick, the House majority leader. “That’s just silly. We won’t do that. I’m not going to put my members on the spot like that. If [Senators] don’t want to do it, they just need to tell us and we’ll go about our business going to regular session. We’re not going to go through an exercise of futility if they’re not serious about considering this legislation,” he told reporters Friday morning.

Gay Tenn couples see court move as first step toward equality (TN/Barchenger)
Dawn Distler and Janie Fazenbaker have been together for almost 27 years, but they were waiting to get married until it was legal for everyone in the United States. “We desperately wanted to get married in either our home state of Ohio or in our current state of Tennessee so we could share the moment with our friends and family who have been so supportive of us and our relationship,” Distler said. But in July, they wed in Washington, D.C. They made the decision so Fazenbaker could qualify for benefits from Distler’s employer in Knoxville. The original plan did not work out for the Knoxville residents, but other same-sex couples here in Tennessee might soon have the opportunity.

Lawmakers ask how Obama would pay for college plan (USA Today)
Don’t expect President Barack Obama to explain in his State of the Union address Tuesday night how he would finance his proposal to let qualified students attend community college free of charge. A White House official said Friday that details on how the community college proposal would be financed will be included in the president’s budget, which comes out in February. The estimated cost — $60 billion over 10 years — already has Republicans balking. “Not even all the Taylor Swift album sales in the world would cover that bill,” House Speaker John Boehner’s office said Friday.

Test Finds College Graduates Lack Skills for White-Collar Jobs (Wall St. Journal)
Four in 10 U.S. college students graduate without the complex reasoning skills to manage white-collar work, according to the results of a test of nearly 32,000 students. The test, which was administered at 169 colleges and universities in 2013 and 2014 and released Thursday, reveals broad variation in the intellectual development of the nation’s students depending on the type and even location of the school they attend. On average, students make strides in their ability to reason, but because so many start at such a deficit, many still graduate without the ability to read a scatterplot, construct a cohesive argument or identify a logical fallacy.

TVA to repair lights on Fort Loudoun Dam bridge (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Willett)
The lights on the Fort Loudoun Dam bridge might be coming back on soon, but there are no guarantees from the Tennessee Valley Authority as to how long the lights will keep working. TVA said this week it is working to repair the lights on the bridge and might have some of the lights working by the middle of next week. The lights went out following a short-circuit in June and were deliberately disconnected in November. For months, TVA has said it has no plans to repair the lights because a new bridge, now under construction, will be completed in June 2016.

VW Chattanooga plant construction moving ahead (Times Free-Press/Pare)
Volkswagen is continuing to move ahead with construction of its Chattanooga plant expansion with a contract for geotechnical inspection slated for approval by a city panel next week. S&ME is expected to be awarded a $697,000 contract for the work related to the expansion of the plant by the city’s Industrial Development Board when it meets Wednesday. “We are familiar with this project as we previously completed the geotechnical site assessment for the original plant construction…,” the company said in documents.

Kansas: Pressed by Budget Squeeze, Brownback Pulls Back on Tax Cuts (NYT)
Gov. Sam Brownback, who made cutting taxes and shrinking government the centerpieces of his government, proposed on Friday to close a huge projected shortfall in the state budget by increasing some sales taxes and sharply slowing his plan to gradually reduce the state income tax. The move marks a significant turn for Mr. Brownback, a Republican who has tried to make his state a national model for conservative governance and who criticized calls from his Democratic opponent in last year’s campaign to scale back his income tax cut.

OPINION

Bill Hagerty: Leadership brought Tenn. economic development success (Tenn)
Tennessee captured national attention this month when it was named the No. 1 state in the nation for economic development for the second time in as many years. This unprecedented back-to-back win underscores the long-range operating success Tennessee is enjoying in the economic development arena. When done correctly, economic development can build a robust jobs pipeline, securing commitments from the private sector to create jobs and invest in a state. Tennessee’s economic development pipeline is among the strongest in the nation.