Press Releases

ETSU Awarded $145K ‘Transportation Enhancement Grant’

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Office of Gov. Bill Haslam, Aug. 18, 2011:

Grant to Fund Miocene Habitat at Gray Fossil Site Visitor Center

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam joined state and local leaders today to announce the award of a $145,026 transportation enhancement grant to East Tennessee State University for the Miocene Habitat at the Gray Fossil Site Visitor Center in Washington County.

The Miocene Habitat at the Gray Fossil Site Visitor Center includes outdoor enhancements to the visitor center, such as a welcome sign, signage for self-guided tours, landscaping, irrigation, picnic shelters, art, and ADA accessibility. This project represents the completion of the grounds and visitor amenities for the visitor center.

“In its three year history, the Gray Fossil Site Visitor Center has welcomed more than a quarter of a million visitors from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries,” Haslam said. “This project completes a monumental effort to preserve this historic site and create a unique educational opportunity for those who visit.”

The grant is made possible through a federally funded program administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

“Through Transportation Enhancement grants, TDOT has funded more than $259 million in non-traditional transportation projects,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “Established by Congress in the early 1990s, the program supports activities designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects of the nation’s transportation system.”

A variety of activities such as the restoration of historic facilities, bike and pedestrian trails, landscaping and other non-traditional transportation projects are eligible for grant funds under the federal program.

Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), Rep. Dale Ford (R-Jonesborough) and Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) represent Washington County in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Press Releases

First Lady Haslam Hosts Military Spouses

Press Release from the Office of Gov. Bill Haslam, Aug. 4, 2011:

Mrs. Haslam expresses appreciation and gratitude to military families

NASHVILLE – First Lady Crissy Haslam today hosted more than 100 spouses of deployed soldiers of the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard for a reception at the Tennessee Residence.

The purpose of the event was to honor the sacrifices that military families have made and to pay tribute to the spouses who play a vital role in our nation’s defense. Country Singer/Songwriter Josh Thompson provided entertainment at the event.

“Men and women in the military make incredible sacrifices, and we can never thank you enough for the sacrifices your families have also made for our country,” Mrs. Haslam said during the event. She also shared best wishes from the governor, who is currently overseas visiting soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Col. Many-Bears Grinder, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs, and Maj. Gen. Max Haston, Adjunct General of the Tennessee National Guard, both attended the event to honor military families. A Military Spouses’ Day Proclamation, recently signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, was read aloud to acknowledge the significant contributions, support and sacrifices of spouses of the Armed Forces.

“It was an honor to welcome so many brave military spouses to the Tennessee Residence, and we are so incredibly grateful for their service and sacrifice,” Mrs. Haslam said.

Press Releases

Haslam, Hagerty Welcome Spears Coastline Plastic to Pulaski

Press Release fron the State of Tennessee, Aug. 1, 2011

 CPVC Pipe Manufacturer to Move Facility from Alabama to Pulaski, Tenn.

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty joined representatives from Spears Coastline Plastic LLC today to announce the company’s purchase of the New Tech Color Additives building in the Pulaski/Giles County Industrial Park. Spears Coastline Plastic is a leading manufacturer of Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride (CPVC) pipe for fire protection, plumbing and industrial market applications and will be transferring its Ardmore, Ala.-based manufacturing facility to the Pulaski facility over the next few months, bringing 25 jobs to the region, with the intent to add 25 more within a five year period.

“We are excited to welcome Spears Coastline Plastic to Pulaski,” Haslam said. “As new companies are introduced to Tennessee’s attractive business climate and skilled workforce, we continue to work toward our goal of becoming the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“I appreciate the investment that Spears Coastline Plastic is making in Pulaski,” said Hagerty. “Advanced manufacturing is a key area in which we feel Tennessee has a distinct competitive advantage, as outlined in Governor Haslam’s Jobs4TN economic development plan. We will continue working with our local communities to recruit great companies like this to the state.”

Founded in 1969, Spears Manufacturing now maintains more than one million square feet of manufacturing facilities in four states with nine distribution centers across the U.S. and supplies products worldwide. The company acquired Coastline Plastics LLC in 2008.

“Spears Coastline Plastic has been a strong and growing player in the CPVC marketplace and the move to our new location in Pulaski will help the company grow even stronger and more productive,” said Wayne Spears, Spears Manufacturing founder, president and CEO. “We were looking to grow our CPVC market share and needed a location that could be served by rail, and the Pulaski location offers us the room to grow and reliable rail service. We are excited about the possibilities.”

“It’s a great day in Giles County and on behalf of the citizens of Giles County, I would like to welcome Spears Coastline Plastics to our community,” said Janet Vanzant, county executive of Giles County. “We are proud and excited they are here, and I know they will find our workforce motivated and productive.”

“I too would like to welcome Spears Coastline Plastic to Pulaski,” said Pat Ford, mayor of Pulaski. “I, along with the members of the Pulaski City Council are looking forward to working with and helping Spears Coastline Plastic with their relocation to Pulaski and their future success,” added Mayor Ford.

“Giles County is the home of world-class industries, making world-class products by world-class people, and from what I have learned about Mr. Wayne Spears, Spears Manufacturing and Spears Coastline Plastics, they have found the prefect home,” said Dan Speer, executive director of the Pulaski/Giles County Economic Development Commission.

About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to develop strategies which help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. The department seeks to attract new corporate investment in Tennessee and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. To find out more, go to


Press Releases

Newest ‘Transportation Enhancement’ Grant Gives $1.9M For Sidewalks

State of Tennessee Press Release; Aug. 1, 2011:

Grant to Fund Harding Place Pedestrian Network Phase I

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and TDOT Commissioner John Schroer are pleased to announce the award of a $1,961,000 transportation enhancement grant to the city of Nashville for Phase I of the Harding Place Pedestrian Network Project.

The Harding Place Pedestrian Network Project will add concrete sidewalks to Harding Place from Nolensville Road to Tampa Drive. The project will improve pedestrian safety and connectivity in an area that is home to multi-family residences, retail centers, churches, a hospital, and bus stops.

“The Harding Place Pedestrian Network will provide a much needed link between schools, residential areas, and commercial developments,” Haslam said. “These improvements will help keep pedestrians safe and encourage more residents to walk to their destinations. I’m pleased we could make this investment in Davidson County.”

The grant is made possible through a federally funded program administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

“Through Transportation Enhancement grants, TDOT has funded more than $259 million in non-traditional transportation projects,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “Established by Congress in the early 1990s, the program supports activities designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects of the nation’s transportation system.”

Mayor Karl Dean said, “This sidewalk will allow residents to access mass transit, schools, churches and stores more safely, and I’m pleased that TDOT and Metro worked together to make it happen. Sidewalks connect us as a community, and they encourage Nashvillians to walk and be more active.”

A variety of activities such as the restoration of historic facilities, bike and pedestrian trails, landscaping and other non-traditional transportation projects are eligible for grant funds under the federal program.

The Davidson County legislative delegation also worked to secure these grant funds.


Press Releases

TN Wins Gates Foundation-Funded Grant for Higher Ed

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, July 25, 2011:

Complete College America to provide $1 million for innovation to speed student success

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that the state has been awarded $1 million to fuel policy innovations and reforms aimed at significantly increasing college completion. The grant is provided by Complete College America as part of its national Completion Innovation Challenge grant competition.

A national non-profit organization focused solely on working with states to significantly boost college completion, Complete College America established the grant competition to inspire and enhance state efforts. Funding support for the grant program was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“This is exciting news that complements our continued focus on improving education in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “On behalf of Tennesseans, we appreciate Complete College America and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for making this investment to support our efforts.”

Governors from all 50 states were invited to submit proposals to win one of ten $1 million, 18-month implementation grants for innovative, high-impact college completion initiatives designed to enhance student success and close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations. Thirty-three states ultimately entered the highly competitive contest. As a winning state, Tennessee was determined to have one of the nation’s most promising strategies to smooth and shorten pathways to college completion for all students.

“Governor Haslam gets it: doing more of the same will not boost student success or get Tennessee the additional college graduates it must have to be competitive,” Complete College America President Stan Jones said. “ It’s long past time for bold innovation in higher education to remove unnecessary obstacles to success, fix broken policies that hold students back, speed achievement and redesign pathways to college graduation for the new majority of students who must balance work and school.”

“Tennessee’s innovative Complete College initiative promises to significantly increase college completion, saving students precious time and money – and giving taxpayers more of what they expect from their hard-earned investments in higher education: college graduates,” added Jones.

Tennessee’s winning proposal includes three components: First, an initiative to expand access to the Adaptive Advising Tool, a transformative technology developed at Austin Peay State University that uses an algorithm based on prescriptive analytics to provide tailored course recommendations to students – based not just on degree requirements but on likelihood of success in the course. Second, an effort to develop tools for students and campuses to evaluate and award credit for prior learning, which should make it easier for adults to earn a college degree and thereby aid the state’s overall efforts to increase educational attainment. Third, funding for “completion academies” that will help Tennessee institutions develop innovative strategies for meeting their specific completion targets.

The grant will be administered by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) with a leadership team that includes representatives from the Governor’s Office, Tennessee General Assembly, Tennessee Business Roundtable, THEC, and the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Board of Regents systems.


Press Releases

Governor Offers Rewards on Missing Persons Investigations

Press Release from Gov. Bill Haslam, July 13, 2011:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is offering three rewards in three separate cases for information leading to the apprehension, arrest and conviction of the person or persons who are criminally responsible in each case.

Haslam is offering a $10,000 reward in the case of Shelley Mook who was last seen on February 28 at the home of her ex-husband in Bedford County where she had taken her child. Several hours later, her car was discovered burning in Rutherford County. Authorities believe Mook is the victim of an aggravated kidnapping and/or intentional homicide.

The governor is making the reward available at the request of District Attorney General for the 17th District Charles Crawford and the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office.

The second reward is for $10,000 in the case of Lydia Naomi Gutierrez who was stabbed and strangled in her apartment in Gallatin on August 12, 2010 while her two sons, ages 1 and 2, were there. Her third son, who was 8, found his mother’s body when he got home from school.

Haslam is making the reward available at the request of District Attorney General for the 18th District Ray Whitley.

The third reward is for $5,000 for information leading to the whereabouts of Zaylee Grace Fryer, who was 4 months old at the time of her disappearance. The baby and her mother, Shauna Fryar, were reported missing from their home in Millersville on May 5. On May 7, the mother’s body was recovered from the Cumberland River in downtown

Nashville around the area of the Shelby Street Bridge. Zaylee has not been seen since May 1, 2011. An Amber Alert was issued for her on May 10. The governor is making the reward available at the request of District Attorney General for the 18th District Ray Whitley.

“These are terrible crimes against women and children, and I hope these rewards will encourage anyone with information about any of these cases to contact the appropriate authorities immediately,” Haslam said.



Press Releases

Haslam Promotes Hafner to Director for Legislation

Press release from Gov. Bill Haslam, July 1, 2011:

Hafner to Assume Additional Responsibilities in Crafting Legislative Agenda

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Leslie Hafner as the new director for legislation handling legislative affairs for the administration. She has served since February as deputy director for legislation to Dale Kelley who is returning to West Tennessee to handle special projects for the governor’s office.

“Dale’s leadership during our successful first legislative session was critical, and I look forward to working with him on special projects – such as the Haywood County megasite – in West Tennessee,” Haslam said.

“I am pleased Leslie will take on this new role,” Haslam continued. “We have a lot of work to do over these next several months to define our priorities next session. Similar to this year, we plan to focus on several key initiatives that will have the most impact on making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

Hafner has worked around Legislative Plaza and Capitol Hill since the mid-1990’s. She served as director of government advocacy for the law firm Bass Berry & Sims after overseeing government affairs across six states for Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America. She also served in Gov. Don Sundquist’s administration, working with education experts to develop the Education Improvement Act, an initiative to boost K-12 test scores.

“I’m honored and excited to take on these additional responsibilities for the governor,” Hafner said. “And I look forward to working with the administration and the General Assembly on making Tennessee the best place in the country to live, work and play.”

“Leslie will do a great job, and I have enjoyed working in the Capitol with Gov. Haslam,” Kelley said. “I’m excited to continue working with the administration on projects close to home in West Tennessee.”

Hafner has served on the boards of the Nashville Women’s Political Caucus and the Tennessee Lobbyist Association. For the last three election cycles, she was on the TLA’s Election Information Panel, which required extensive research on candidates and districts.

She has a B.S. in Communications from Middle Tennessee State University, and she is married to Matt. They attend Christ Episcopal Cathedral in Nashville.



Press Releases

Three Appointed to TN Board of Ed.

Press Release from Gov. Bill Haslam, June 24, 2011:

Edwards and Roberts join board, Pearre reappointed

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced three members of the state Board of Education: Knoxville Chamber President and CEO Mike Edwards; former Executive Director of the Tennessee Board of Regents’ Tech Prep Programs Carolyn Pearre; and TRH Health Plans CEO Lonnie Roberts.

Edwards, Pearre and Roberts are each appointed to nine-year terms, and for Pearre, this is her second term on the board. Edwards and Roberts are replacing Richard Ray and Flavius Barker.

The Tennessee Board of Education is the governing and policy making body for the state’s public and secondary education systems, affecting accountability, evaluation, curriculum and teacher education, among other areas.

“Improving the education we offer Tennesseans is the best long-term job growth strategy, and I’m confident Carolyn, Lonnie and Mike are up to the task of helping to guide the state’s schools as we seek to positively impact the classroom experience for every student in every school,” Haslam said.

Edwards has been president and CEO of the Knoxville Chamber since 2002, and he is also the president and CEO of The Development Corporation of Knox County. He serves on the Education Committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Directors of the Public School Forum of East Tennessee, the state Teacher Evaluation Advisory Committee and the Board of Trustees for the Great Schools Partnership.

Roberts has nearly 40 years of experience in the health care field and has been the CEO of TRH Health Plans since 1996. He is the immediate past chairman of the Columbia State Foundation Board and has served on the State Health Care Facilities Commission, the Board of Directors of the Rural Health Association of Tennessee and the Advisory Board of Maury Regional Hospital.

From 1972-1999, Pearre worked for Knox County schools, beginning as a speech-language therapist and preschool teacher and finishing at The Center School as a program facilitator. She was on the Board of Trustees for the state’s then-Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation; the Board of Trustees for the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute; and the Board of Directors for Leadership Knoxville. Pearre also won several awards as a teacher and principal.

Press Releases

Guv Signs Charter School Expansion Into Law, Vows to Continue Education Talks with Teachers, Parents

For Immediate Release; June 15, 2011:

Haslam Signs Law Lifting Cap, On Opening Enrollment in Charter Schools

MEMPHIS – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today held a ceremonial signing of his charter schools bill, HB 1989/SB 1523 at Freedom Preparatory Academy in Memphis, legislation lifting the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state and opening enrollment to more students.

The changes will make charter schools an option for more districts that seek to take advantage of this innovative tool and for more parents who seek educational options for their children. The initiative is part of his first legislative package that focused on continuing the state’s progress in education reform and ultimately geared toward Haslam’s first priority: making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.

“Charter schools are a critical part of our mission to provide every child in Tennessee the opportunity to receive a great education, and with the national spotlight on the state’s education reform efforts, this is an important step forward as we continue to focus on growing and attracting high quality jobs to Tennessee,” Haslam said.

Main provisions in the charter schools legislation include:

  • Removing the 90-school cap on the number of charter schools allowed in Tennessee;
  • Removing the existing enrollment restrictions while maintaining the current system that gives preference to applicants who fall under the school’s focus area;
  • Allowing the state Achievement School District to authorize charter schools within the district’s scope;

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville), House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) sponsored the legislation, which passed both houses with bipartisan support.

As Haslam builds on momentum from the legislative session that includes in addition to the charter schools legislation, tenure reform and the ability for students to use lottery scholarships for summer school, he will join Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman in traveling the state over the coming months to talk with educators and parents to continue focusing on what has the most impact on children in our classrooms.

To complement his efforts in improving education and building a skilled workforce, he will also travel with Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty to continue focusing on creating and growing high-paying jobs by working with existing in-state businesses and recruiting new companies into Tennessee.

Press Releases

Legal Challenge to HB600 Underway

Press Release from the Law Offices of Plaintiff’s Attorney Abby R. Rubenfeld, June 13, 2011:

Tennesseans to Challenge Discriminatory State Law

NASHVILLE – A group of local elected officials, individuals, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights organizations filed a lawsuit today in Davidson County Chancery Court, challenging the state’s recent passage of House Bill 600, which prohibits local municipalities and counties, including local school districts, from enacting local laws or school policies that protect gay and transgender people against discrimination. The bill was passed earlier this year, just weeks after Nashville added sexual orientation and gender identity to an existing local anti-discrimination law. The new law also prohibits localities from protecting any other group that is not already protected under state law, which would include veterans and people with disabilities, among others.

According to the complaint filed today: “HB600 embodies an animus toward gay and transgender people so strong that the Tennessee legislature was willing to repeal policies protecting students against bullying and harassment and to make other groups suffer as well, merely to prevent gay and transgender citizens from obtaining needed protections.”

“This law is contrary to core Tennessee values,” said Abby R. Rubenfeld, the suit’s lead attorney. “Tennessee is the volunteer state—we help each other, we don’t single out certain Tennesseans who are deemed unworthy of help. Our legislators abused their power by preventing localities from assisting their own citizens. Rather than considering what is best for our state, they passed a law based on disapproval of gay and transgender people, which the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions do not permit.”

“Fifteen years ago, in fact – in a case quite similar to this one – the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, ‘if the constitutional conception of ‘equal protection of the laws’ means anything, it must at the very least mean that a bare . . . desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest’,” said Rubenfeld, citing Romer v. Evans, which struck down a Colorado constitutional amendment that barred localities or the state from passing laws to prohibit discrimination against gay people.

The suit’s plaintiffs, represented by Nashville attorney Rubenfeld, the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, include:

  •  Lisa Howe, the extremely successful Belmont University soccer coach who made a “mutual decision” to leave her coaching position unexpectedly and despite a highlysuccessful career, immediately after sharing with her team that she and her same-sex partner were having a baby.
  • Metro Councilmembers Erik Cole, Erica Gilmore, and Mike Jameson, representing District 7, District 19, and District 6, respectively. Councilmembers Gilmore and Jameson were co-sponsors of BL2011-838, the Metro ordinance which extended existing anti-discrimination protections to gay and transgender employees of Metro government contractors.
  •  Shirit Pankowsky, a rising senior at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School (MLK) and founder and president of MLK’s Gay/Straight Alliance. By stripping Metro’s ability to protect its citizens from discrimination, HB600 also strips protections from Metro Nashville Public Schools’ LGBT students who face discrimination.
  • Dr. Marisa Richmond, president of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition and longtime advocate for gay and transgender equality at the federal, state and local level.
  •  Wesley Roberts, a teacher at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School and a co-sponsor of the school’s Gay/Straight Alliance.
  •  The Tennessee Equality Project, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and sustaining the equality of gay and transgender Tennesseans.
  •  The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, a statewide organization which advocates for transgender-related legislation at the federal, state and local levels.

“I want my daughter to grow up in a state that treats everyone equally,” said Lisa Howe. “This lawsuit is necessary because the legislation is discriminatory and unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the majority of the legislature didn’t read the bill carefully and think through its consequences. But that’s why we have the Constitution and the courts to interpret it – so that the rights of everyone can be protected.”

“The state legislation was disguised as an effort to ensure consistent business regulations across Tennessee counties. But that was a Trojan horse pretext for getting this passed. Every county has unique zoning regulations, unique employment regulations, and so forth. Why is it only now, and only on the issue of discrimination, that we suddenly need uniformity? If every county now needs to be identical, should we abolish city councils across the state?” said Metro Councilmember and suit plaintiff Mike Jameson.

No individual businesses went on record in support of HB600, and some of Tennessee’s largest employers, including Nissan, Alcoa, FedEx, AT&T, Whirlpool and Comcast, opposed the bill. In addition, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce issued a public statement in opposition to the bill on the day it was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam.

“Under the very thin guise of protecting businesses and commerce, Tennessee passed a law specifically intended to encourage discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the community,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “This law is part of a larger, national strategy to attack cities and counties that attempt to protect their citizens from discrimination based on characteristics that bear no relationship to job performance, talent, or one’s ability to contribute to society.”

Plaintiffs’ claims are based on the equal protection guarantees of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. The lawsuit, which will proceed in state court, seeks injunctive relief to stop the enforcement of HB600 and an order from the Court declaring the law unconstitutional.