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Press Releases

DOE Approves TN’s Appliance Rebate Program

State of Tennessee News Release, Dec 02, 2009:

Eligible Appliances Include Heating and Cooling Units; Program Slated to Launch on Earth Day 2010

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development today announced approval by U.S. Department of Energy for Tennessee’s State Energy and Efficiency Appliance Rebate Program (SEEARP). Tennessee will receive $5.9 million for the program’s rebates and administrative costs and will be funded by federal dollars through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The program will be administered at the state level through ECD.

“This funding provided by the Recovery Act will help Tennessee families lower their utility bills and have a positive impact on the environment,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “This will be a welcome addition to Tennessee’s ongoing energy conservation initiatives.”

Eligible appliances will include air source heat pumps, central air conditioners and room air conditioners with the Energy Star® designation. A rebate of $250 will be available for the air source heat pumps and central air conditioners, while room air conditioners will be eligible for a $40 rebate. The target date for the launch of the program is Earth Day, April 22, 2010.

“Tennessee has one of the highest per capita rates of residential electricity consumption in the U.S.,” said Matt Kisber, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. “By encouraging the use of Energy Star® heating and cooling systems, we’ll help Tennessee families reduce their energy use and save on their heating and cooling bills each month.”

Statewide, the estimated energy savings for delivery and installation of qualified heating and cooling products is approximately 16 million kilowatt hours per year. A reduction in energy use of that size translates to a yearly savings of almost $1.4 million in energy costs for Tennesseans and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by 32 million pounds annually.

The state of Tennessee plans to partner with the Tennessee Valley Authority on the program to reduce administrative and processing costs, as well as to help market and promote SEEARP. The collaboration will allow the state of Tennessee to focus the majority of the ARRA funding on consumer rebates. Consumers receiving rebates under the state’s program may also be eligible for additional financial assistance through TVA’s existing residential efficiency programs.

“With this approach, we can improve residential energy efficiency and reduce peak energy demand on the TVA grid,” said Ryan Gooch, energy policy director for the Department of Economic and Community Development. “Helping consumers purchase more efficient heating and cooling systems will produce significant energy savings and have the biggest positive impact on the environment.”

More details on how consumers can take advantage of the rebates will be available in the coming months.

Only qualifying Energy Star® heating and cooling units purchased after the program launch will be eligible and rebates will not be retroactive. For the latest updates go here.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced in July 2009 that $300 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would be made available to states and territories to promote the purchase of Energy Star® qualified appliances. Energy Star® is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For more information, visit Energy Star®.

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News

Kelsey Wins Senate Seat

Republicans notched another fall 2009 special-election victory last night as former Rep. Brian Kelsey became a senator-elect with a victory over Democrat Adrienne Pakis-Gillon.

Shelby County Election Commission results show Kelsey won decisively over Pakis-Gillon in the low-turnout contest, capturing nearly 75 percent of the vote.

Kelsey, a 31-year-old suburban Memphis attorney, campaigned on creating jobs and opposing  “wasteful government spending” and “government-run health care.”

During the 2009 legislative session Kelsey introduced a constitutional amendment to prohibit the creation of an income tax in Tennessee. The bill did not pass.

In an effort to “take a stand against government-run health care,” Kelsey has also advocated loosening state health-care insurance regulations, which he says will make private medical coverage more affordable.

The results of the election are scheduled to be certified later this month, after which Kelsey will be officially sworn into office.

Kelsey’s lopsided win did nothing to change the partisan make-up of the Senate, however: Republicans still hold control of the chamber, 19-14.

The District 31 seat Kelsey will now occupy was previously held by Republican Paul Stanley, who resigned amidst revelations that he was the target of a blackmail attempt resulting from an adulterous affair he was having with a 22-year-old legislative intern.

Republicans also control the Tennessee House of Representatives, 49-48. Pat Marsh, a Republican from Shelbyville, beat Democrat Ty Cobb in a House special election back in October.

A special election to fill Kelsey’s vacated District 83 House seat is scheduled for Jan. 12 between Democrat Guthrie Castle , Republican Mark White and independent John D. Andreuccetti.

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Liberty and Justice News

Lawmakers Focusing on Possible New Traffic-Camera Rules

Traffic cameras may be growing in popularity among local governments and law enforcement agencies across the country, but some state lawmakers are questioning whether they belong in Tennessee.

Some say the cameras – which snap pictures when motorists drive through a stop light – are simply a tool to raise money.

“There’s no doubt that in some places it’s not about safety. It’s about revenue,” said Rep. Richard Floyd, a Chattanooga Republican.

House lawmakers examining the use of the high-tech traffic enforcement tools plan on introducing bills next year that could create statewide guidelines on the sorts of intersections where cameras could be used, and lengthening the duration of a yellow light before it turns red.

New Johnsonville Democrat John Tidwell, a civil engineer, said yield signals made one second longer will help reduce vehicle crashes, and he hinted he’ll push that issue in the coming session.

Also under discussion are laws to prohibit speeding-enforcement and stoplight-cameras completely.

The cameras are typically operated by private companies that set up the equipment, snap photos, evaluate violations and mail tickets to vehicle owners. Those organizations also receive a chunk of the revenues collected by violators, which is adding to the unease and outright opposition some critics are voicing.

Red-light cameras are under fire right now in a lawsuit arguing that traffic enforcement systems are operating illegally because they’re not properly licensed. Other suits attacking the practice have cropped up around the country.

Lawmakers Tuesday heard from Gordon Catlett, a patrol-support commander for the Knoxville Police Patrol Division who is a supporter of the cameras – and threat of a ticket – to change driver behavior.

“A lot of us treat a traffic signal like a yield sign,” he said.

The Transportation Committee will meet again Wednesday morning to discuss possible alternatives to traffic cameras, and ways to tinker with the system already in place.

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Press Releases

TDEC Releases Advisory Board Report on TVA Kingston Failure

State of Tennessee Press Release: Dec 01, 2009

Report Outlines Areas in Need of Improvement; Provides Recommendations

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke and Deputy Commissioner Paul Sloan announced today the receipt of a report by the Advisory Board put in place by Environment and Conservation following the TVA Kingston coal ash spill.

The report is titled, “Lessons Learned from the TVA Kingston Dredge Cell Containment Facility Failure: TDEC Advisory Board Recommendations for Safe Performance.” It outlines the primary issues found at the TVA Kingston facility, discusses the ongoing evaluation of other TVA facilities, weighs in on the Root Cause Analysis initially published by AECOM in June 2009, and makes several recommendations for future management of coal ash in Tennessee.

“Immediately following the Kingston spill, Governor Bredesen directed us to review all regulations regarding coal ash management in Tennessee to determine how they need to evolve,” said Fyke. “The recommendations made by this group will assist the department as we continue to move forward in that effort. We appreciate their expertise and dedicated service to our state.”

Advisory Board members include:

  • Lyle Bentley, TDEC Division of Water Supply – Safe Dams Program, P.E.
  • Steve Jacoby, Benham Consultants, P.E.
  • Richard Kramer, Benham Consultants, P.E.
  • Glen Pugh, TDEC Division of Solid Waste Management
  • Saya Qualls, TDEC Division of Water Pollution Control, P.E.
  • Karrie Jo Shell, Environmental Protection Agency – Region IV, P.E.
  • Dr. Bruce Tschantz, Professor Emeritus, University of Tennessee – Knoxville, P.E.

Members reviewed available information regarding the Kingston failure, attended TVA briefings, performed site visits and assessed TVA processes to establish lessons learned and develop the recommendations outlined in the report.

“The department is reviewing our rules and regulations regarding coal ash management with an eye toward the Advisory Board’s recommendations,” said Sloan. “We will use this information, as well as any new federal regulations put in place by EPA, to meet the Governor’s directive and ensure coal ash is safely managed in Tennessee into the future.”

The TDEC Advisory Board’s report and recommendations can be found on Environment and Conservation’s TVA Kingston Update.

TDEC Releases Advisory Board Report on TVA Kingston Failure
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News

County Officials to Decide Who Fills Turner’s House Seat

For the second time in two years, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners will have to select someone to fill a death-caused vacancy in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Rep. Larry Turner, D-Memphis, passed away Nov. 27. Turner’s seat on the House floor, which he occupied for a quarter of a century, will remain empty until the 12-member governing board of the state’s most southwesterly county chooses his replacement.

“It could be very quick. It just depends on how long it takes the commission to pick it up,” said Addison Pate, spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus.

The Tennessee Constitution stipulates that vacancies becoming open more than a year before the next general election are filled by a special election. Turner died just under a year before the 2010 election, which means county politicians, not voters, will choose who represents House District 85 this coming legislative session.

Shelby County officials were put in a similar position when District 87’s Rep. Gary Rowe, another Memphis Democrat, died while serving in office in early 2008. Karen Camper was picked to replace him soon afterward. She won in the general election later that fall.

To appoint someone to the post, individual commissioners must first nominate a candidate. Only then will the rest of the commission vote for or against the individual who will serve out Turner’s term.

The Commercial-Appeal reported Monday that possible nominees to replace Turner include that of his widow, Johnnie, a longtime NAACP Memphis-branch president; Shelby County Democratic Party chairman Van D. Turner, Jr.; and local attorney Errol Harmon.

The Tennessee Constitution doesn’t specify how long county commissions have to fill vacancies in the Legislature, but the 2010 regular session starts Jan. 12.

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Press Releases

World’s First Medical Trade Center Planned for Nashville

State of Tennessee Press Release, Mon, Nov 30, 2009:

Texas-Based Market Center Management Company to Develop Health Care Marketplace on Site of Nashville Convention Center

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen today joined Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matt Kisber, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and senior executives of Market Center Management Company (MCMC) of Dallas, Texas in announcing plans to locate the world’s first medical trade center on the site of the current Nashville Convention Center at 601 Commerce Street.

“This announcement means Tennessee will be home to an important new concept in the marketing and procurement of medical equipment, technology and services,” said Bredesen. “The health care industry is a significant economic engine for our state and this project expands that footprint, representing a major investment in our state’s health care economy.”

The project will be titled the Nashville Medical Trade Center and is slated to be developed on the site of the existing Nashville Convention Center. Market Center Management Company will immediately begin work on pre-leasing the proposed trade center’s permanent exhibition space. Development is contingent on MCMC pre-leasing a significant amount of exhibit space and securing financing, as well as the approval of a new convention center by the Nashville Metropolitan Council. Developers estimate the cost of the project to be in the neighborhood of $250 million and estimate it will create approximately 2,700 new jobs.

“As Governor Bredesen and I have traveled around the world, Tennessee’s expertise in health care services, medical devices and medical research and development is well known,” said Commissioner Kisber. “The successful completion of this project will only add to Nashville and to Tennessee’s strong reputation as a center of excellence in health care.”

“This project will create a large number of new jobs in our city right when we need them most,” said Mayor Dean. “In addition to building on Nashville’s preeminence in the health care industry, the reuse of the Convention Center and the proposed improvements to the center’s physical structure will be a significant contribution to our vital and robust downtown.”

“We believe Nashville is the perfect U.S. location for this international project,” said Bill Winsor, CEO of MCMC, which is owned by Dallas-based Crow Holdings. “We’re calling the Nashville Medical Trade Center a global health care marketplace because we envision health care providers from around the world coming to the city to learn about the latest medical technology and services.”

Market Center Management officials plan to construct a 12-story tower above the existing convention center with more than 1.5 million square feet of exhibit space, including permanent exhibit space for more than 600 medical equipment companies, display space for temporary trade shows and a medical education and symposium center. In all, the project would bring the total available space at the Nashville Medical Trade Center to approximately 2 million square feet. The company is also exploring a possible public interaction center facing Broadway, such as a museum or a broadcast center devoted to health care issues.

The developer has chosen Dr. David Osborn, PhD, formerly of the Health Care Solutions Group as the company’s senior advisor for the project.

“The Nashville Medical Trade Center is an incredible innovation in the push to take cost, complexity and time out of the procurement process for health care providers,” said Dr. Osborn. “We believe physicians, health care administrators and care givers of all kinds will come to Nashville to evaluate first hand the latest technologies available to provide the highest quality care to patients.”

Osborn says if a decision is made on a new convention center in Nashville by early next year, construction on the Medical Trade Center could begin as early as the summer of 2010.

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Press Releases

October 2009 County Unemployment Rates for Tennessee

State of Tennessee News Release on Wed, Nov 25, 2009

Rates Increase in 39 Counties, Decrease in 42, Remain the Same in 15

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s unemployment rate for October was 10.5 percent, unchanged from the September rate of 10.5 percent. The United States’ unemployment rate for the month of October was 10.2 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for October 2009, released today, show that the rate increased in 38 counties, decreased in 42, and remained the same in 15 counties.

Lincoln County registered the state’s lowest county unemployment rate at 6.9 percent, unchanged from its September rate. Lauderdale County had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 18.9 percent, up 0.1 from the September rate, followed by Hancock County at 18.0 percent, down from 18.4 percent in September.

Knox County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate of 7.8 percent, down 0.3 percentage point from the September rate. Hamilton County was at 8.8 percent, up 0.1 percentage point from the September rate. Davidson County was 8.9 percent, down 0.2 from the previous month, and Shelby County was 10.2 percent, up 0.1 from the September rate.

More Info Here (PDF)

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Press Releases

Christmas Tree Web Site Finds Farms for Short Holiday Season

This is a Tennessee State Government news release, Nov. 19, 2009

NASHVILLE – The official Christmas season is short this year—only four weeks from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Day. There’s no time to waste to catch the holiday spirit: go straight to www.picktnproducts.org for all sorts of Christmas tree history, educational fun and games– and of course, a directory of Christmas tree farms across Tennessee.

Along with the statewide tree farm listing, the Pick Tennessee Products Web site features tips on proper selection and care of natural trees whether cut or balled and burlapped for post-holiday planting. The Web page also offers a link to the national Christmas tree farm site.

Among the things visitors will find at the national natural tree site is information about where the White House tree is coming from this year.

There are lesson plans on conifers, how trees grow, tree recycling, graphs and mapping, traditions and even writing poetry. Visitors can also enjoy games and activities just for fun, but all are related to trees.

Other links accessible through the national Christmas tree site include the popular “How Stuff Works” and other teacher and student resources.

Tennessee Christmas tree farms are spread across the state. The types of trees grown depend on the geography and climate of the region, from mountainous trees like firs and spruces in Upper East Tennessee to warm-weather wetland trees like pines and Leyland Cypress in West Tennessee. Tennessee Christmas tree farms range from large wholesale businesses with helicopter harvesting to small family “choose and cut” farms. Tree shoppers may wander through groves of uncut trees and cut their own, have trees cut for them, select a freshly cut tree on site at the farm or take home a live balled and burlapped tree.

There are some pretty practical reasons to choose straight-off-the-farm local Christmas trees: cost and quality. Buying direct from the grower eliminates transportation and middleman costs. Cutting out transportation time also means the customer is assured the freshest tree possible. Trees coming from out of the state must be cut well before Thanksgiving—sometimes as early as October. The freshness of a Tennessee Christmas tree guarantees not only maximum fragrance and appearance but safety, as well.

Every tree farm is different, but they all want to provide customers with more than just a quality, homegrown tree. Tree farmers want to provide visitors with a great traditional holiday experience that will bring them back year after year.

For information about other locally grown and processed products, including artisan and specialty products for the holidays, visit www.picktnproducts.org.

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Press Releases

Stimulus Grant for TN Green Job Employment Search

(State of Tennessee News Release: Fri, Nov 20, 2009)

Automotive Workers Will More Easily Connect with Green Industries

NASHVILLE – Workers in the automotive industry will find it easier to direct their job search activities to occupations in green industries as a result of a research grant awarded the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the $765,000 Recovery Act grant to the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development to create labor market data to assess economic activity in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries and identify occupations and skill requirements within those industries. The focus of the research is to assist workers affected by significant automotive-related restructurings to connect to career pathways in green industries.

“This Recovery Act research grant will enhance our ability to inform job seekers and training providers about the job skills required and the growing needs of employers in the green jobs sector,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “The research funded by this grant funds will help us better assist Tennesseans looking for employment opportunities in this growing area.”

“Tennessee is identifying itself as a leader in the developing green industries,” said Commissioner James Neeley. “The research made possible by the grant will be a welcome boost to the department’s efforts to assist displaced workers who are looking for new careers and need help identifying areas where skills shortages exist.”

The Tennessee Recovery Act LMI Improvement Grant will gather and disseminate findings on employment data in established and new green job opportunities. The survey will focus on public and private interest in renewable transportation, sustainable agriculture, and federal funding focused on the state’s burgeoning green economy. This survey will expand on prior green studies (Growing Green: the Potential for Green Job Growth in Tennessee 2008) by providing current estimates for the number of green jobs and green job vacancies within the 13 labor and workforce investment areas of Tennessee. A focus of the grant is to help workers affected by significant automotive-related restructurings connect to career pathways in green industries.

“Our Career Center system is an excellent resource for disseminating this kind of information so they can get additional training and certifications to enter this exciting growth market,” said Neeley.

The results of the analysis will be issued in a new report as well as integrated into the Tennessee Department of Labor’s labor market information Web site. Job openings provided in each local Career Center will reflect the job position’s relation to green industries. The department is also expected to create enhanced online tools to post resumes for those certified in green occupations.

Labor’s report on green jobs released in November 2008, Growing Green: the Potential for Green Job Growth in Tennessee 2008, can be found on this pdf. For more information visit the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act website.

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Press Releases

NRA: Restaurant Gun-Carry Ruling A Setback for Tennessee

This press release was issued by the National Rifle Association on Nov. 23, 2009:

Fairfax, Va. – Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman of the Chancery Court for Davidson County, Tennessee ruled last week that Tennessee’s restaurant carry law is unconstitutionally vague because of a perceived ambiguity over the state’s definition of restaurants. This law gave right-to-carry permit holders the chance to defend themselves from criminal attack while in a restaurant.

“This ruling is a setback for Tennessee’s law-abiding concealed carry permit holders,” said Chris W. Cox, NRA chief lobbyist. “We strongly urge Attorney General Robert Cooper to defend the Tennessee statute and appeal this unwise ruling.”

HB 962, Tennessee’s Restaurant Carry legislation, passed both the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support, but Governor Phil Bredesen vetoed the bill on May 28, disappointing more than 200,000 right-to-carry permit holders in the state. While an override of the veto only needed a simple majority vote to pass, it cleared both chambers with overwhelming, bi-partisan support. This law went into effect in July of this year after the Tennessee House and Senate successfully overrode Gov. Bredesen’s veto of HB 962. Tennessee joined 35 other states which recognize the right to carry in restaurants that serve alcohol when it enacted this legislation into law.

This law is crucial because crimes do occur in restaurants. On April 2, 2009, Benjamin Felix Goeser was gunned down at Jonny’s Sports Bar on Nolensville Road in Nashville. His wife, Nicole Goeser, has a right-to-carry permit, but she had to keep her gun locked in the car because of Tennessee law. Mrs. Goeser actively lobbied for the passage of this measure.

“Right-to-carry permit holders in Tennessee need to be aware that the chancery court’s regrettable and incorrect decision effectively suspends the law the legislature enacted and that they should not carry in restaurants until this litigation is resolved on appeal,” concluded Cox. “The NRA will continue to fight on behalf of our members, permit holders and victims of crime until this reasonable self-defense measure is restored as Tennessee law.”

Established in 1871, the National Rifle Association is America’s oldest civil rights and sportsmen’s group. Four million members strong, NRA continues its mission to uphold Second Amendment rights and to advocate enforcement of existing laws against violent offenders to reduce crime. The Association remains the nation’s leader in firearm education and training for law-abiding gun owners, law enforcement and the military.