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Alexander Receives Ashbrook Award for Championing History, Civics Education

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; March 5, 2015:

WASHINGTON, March 5, 2015 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) was presented Wednesday evening with the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University’s 2015 John M. Ashbrook Award for his work in championing American history and civics education.

“In my first address as a U.S. Senator, I proposed that we create summer academies for outstanding teachers in United States history. The next year, Congress passed legislation to create the Presidential and Congressional academies to inspire better teaching and more learning of the key events, persons and ideas that shape our nation—helping our children to grow up knowing what it means to be an American,” said Alexander, chairman of the Senate education committee. “I thank the Ashbrook Center for their important work in continuing to inspire a love of American history and civics, and I’m glad to accept their award.”

In presenting Alexander with this award, Ashbrook Center Executive Director Roger L. Beckett cited Alexander’s “commitment to educating the next generation about our unique form of constitutional government.” Beckett added, “He pioneered the idea of hosting educational programs at key historical sites during his early days in the Senate. The Ashbrook Center embraced this concept then and continues these types of programs now to great success.”

In 2004, Alexander introduced the American History and Civics Education Act, which allowed for the creation of the Congressional Academies for high school students and the Presidential Academies for teachers to focus on American history and civics. The Ashbrook Center’s program allows high school juniors and teachers of American history and civics to learn first-hand through visits to historical sites in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding areas. At the Ashbrook Center, the programs focus on three critical eras in American history through study of the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

According to the Ashbrook Center, the award is presented annually to “honor individuals in politics and related fields who exemplify the ideals” of the late Ohio Congressman John M. Ashbrook, who served in the House of Representatives from 1962 until his death in 1982. These ideals, the award says, “include integrity of thought and conduct; the knowledge of what is right and a determination to do right.”

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Haslam Announces Unipres Expanding Portland Facility

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; March 5, 2015:

Global Automotive Parts Manufacturer to Create 435 New Jobs

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd along with Unipres USA Inc. officials announced today the company will expand its Portland facilities by adding new presses and building space to house the additional presses. The expansion will create 435 new jobs over the next five years in Sumner County.

“We want to congratulate Unipres USA on its expansion and thank the company for its plans to create more than 400 new jobs in Portland,” Haslam said. “The momentum of our automotive sector is a direct result of the success of the many manufacturers, suppliers and other thriving automotive-related companies that call our state home, and today’s announcement supports our goal to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

“Unipres USA has not only been an outstanding corporate citizen in Portland, it has also made a significant difference in the community with its contributions to local schools, parks, and fire and police departments,” Boyd said. “I would like to thank Unipres USA for its continued investment in Sumner County and look forward to the company’s future growth and success in Middle Tennessee.”

“Unipres USA would like to thank Governor Haslam, Commissioner Boyd, Tennessee Economic and Community Development, Mayor Wilber, City of Portland Economic Development, Portland Industrial Development Board, and County Executive Holt for the generous support with our business growth,” Unipres USA President Takeo Sato said. “Unipres has been fortunate with new opportunities in Portland. Unipres is committed to being a good community partner and will, as much as possible, use local companies and contractors for construction and expansion activities.  Also, we look forward to being a part of the growth in the community.”

The expansion includes significant capital investment in the renovation and retrofitting of a storage warehouse to house assembly equipment and materials. The ongoing expansion plans also include an addition to the existing manufacturing facilities of approximately 32,000 square feet to house two new 2,500-ton transfer presses and one 600-ton blanking press.

“We are very fortunate to have Unipres USA as a leader in our industrial community,” Portland Mayor Ken Wilber said. “Though the years, they have been consistent with participation in projects that enhance the quality of life for the citizens of our community. We are proud to be a part of their growth and hope to support them for many more years.”

“I would like to thank Unipres USA for expanding not only in Portland but also in Sumner County,” Sumner County Executive Anthony Holt said. “I am excited about their investment and creation of high paying jobs. I look forward to working with them and in making their investment a success not only for the company, but for our community as well.”

“TVA and Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation congratulate Unipres USA on its announced plans to expand and add new jobs at its Portland operations,” TVA Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley said. “We are pleased to partner with the state of Tennessee, city of Portland and Sumner County officials to assist the growth of existing industries.”

Unipres USA, a premium automotive parts manufacturer, focuses primarily on stamping, machining and assembly of metal parts for the main portions of automotive body structures, in addition to pressing molded components and precision automatic transmission parts. The company has been in Portland since 1987 and currently employs a workforce of more than 1,000.

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Haslam Announces Gruppo Opening First U.S. Facility in Maury Co

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development; March 5, 2015:

NASHVILLE—Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd along with Gruppo Concorde officials announced today the company plans to build its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Mt. Pleasant, where it will produce porcelain tiles. Gruppo Concorde, through its North American subsidiary UST Inc., will invest approximately $80 million to construct a new 600,000 square foot facility on 96 acres in Maury County, creating 180 new jobs.

“We want to thank Gruppo Concorde for its investment in Tennessee and the 180 new jobs they are creating in Maury County,” Haslam said. “Having this global company locate its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Tennessee says something—that we compete with anyone as we continue our work to become the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

Gruppo Concorde was founded in 1968, and with over 2,200 employees worldwide, the company has expanded to become one of the largest producers of high-end ceramic tile, operating production sites in Italy, France and Russia and exporting its products to more than 130 countries around the globe.

“Tennessee continues to build upon its reputation as the North American location choice for the international tile manufacturing industry,” Boyd said. “Since 2011, five ceramics companies have committed a total of 630 new jobs to our state. Gruppo Concorde, and the jobs they are creating, is a valuable addition to the community, and I look forward to their continued growth and success in Tennessee.”

“We have chosen Tennessee for a number of reasons, including the state’s vibrant and business-friendly environment and the warm and proactive welcome we have received from the local community in Maury County,” Gruppo Concorde Executive and UST Inc. President and CEO Federico Curioni said. “Tennessee is also very close to some of the most important raw material used in the tile industry, such as plastic clay and feldspar, which greatly benefits our production capabilities.”

UST Inc. is building this new facility, to be located at 1433 North Main St. in Mt. Pleasant, in order to increase Gruppo Concorde presence on the U.S. market. Through this expansion, Gruppo Concorde will be able to improve its services and products portfolio.

“We are ecstatic to have an internationally recognized company such as Gruppo Concorde locating to Maury County,” Maury County Mayor Charlie Norman said. ”Over the last two years, The Maury Alliance, The Industrial Development Board of Maury County, Maury County Government, and the City of Mount Pleasant have been working hard to ensure this project came to fruition. This is a prime example of what community teamwork can accomplish and I am proud of all of those involved.”

“TVA and Mount Pleasant Power System congratulate Gruppo Concorde on its decision to start new operations and create quality jobs in Mount Pleasant,” TVA Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley said. “We are pleased to partner with the state of Tennessee, the Maury Alliance, South Central Tennessee Development District, City of Mount Pleasant and Maury County officials to facilitate Gruppo Concorde’s finding its optimum location.”

Approximately 1,260 Tennesseans are employed in the ceramics industry, representing an increase of more than 14 percent from 2010-2014.

UST Inc. expects construction to begin this month and plans to have the facility operational by the second half of 2016.

The company will begin hiring for these new positions sometime in the second half of 2015, and will later communicate the details for the application process.

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Comptroller Investigation Finds Hamblen Co. Solid Waste Director Stole More Than $225K

Press release from the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; March 5, 2015:

A special investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury has revealed the former director of the Hamblen County/Morristown Solid Waste System stole at least $227,972 in system funds. Ronald Brady admitted to Comptroller investigators that he used the money for his personal benefit. This investigation was completed in conjunction with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Investigators discovered Mr. Brady took system funds over a 3 ½ year period using several schemes. Mr. Brady issued unauthorized checks to himself totaling at least $196,206 from the solid waste system bank account and used the money for his personal benefit.

Mr. Brady also used the solid waste system’s American Express card to charge at least $31,785 in personal purchases. These purchases included vacations to Walt Disney World and other resorts, servicing his BMW and GMC Yukon, and a mattress that Mr. Brady requested to be delivered to his home. The charges were paid through the solid waste system’s bank account. Comptroller investigators also found Mr. Brady used solid waste system funds to make payments totaling $3,801 on a non-system credit card.

Mr. Brady destroyed, discarded, or altered solid waste system records to conceal his schemes. He was able to take the money without the knowledge or authorization of the solid waste system’s board. Ronald Brady resigned as director in February 2014.

On March 2, 2015, Ronald Brady was indicted by the Hamblen County Grand Jury on one count of theft over $60,000.

Comptroller investigators recommend the solid waste system implement checks and balances to ensure that one employee does not have complete control over a financial transaction from beginning to end. A credit card policy should also be established that allows all charges to be reviewed and documented.

“Solid waste customers make sacrifices each time they pay their bills,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “They must have confidence their dollars are being used appropriately, and it is shameful that a director would steal this money for his own gain.”

To view the special investigation online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/.

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TN Unemployment Increases to 6.7% Again in January

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development; March 5, 2015:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced today the Tennessee preliminary unemployment rate for January was 6.7 percent, one-tenth of one percentage point higher than the December revised rate of 6.6 percent. The U.S. preliminary rate for January was 5.7 percent, also gaining one-tenth of one percentage point from the prior month.

Economic Summary

  • Over the past year, Tennessee’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent, while the national rate declined from 6.6 percent to 5.7 percent.
  • Total nonfarm employment increased 8.300 jobs from December, 2014 to January, 2015. The largest increases occurred in trade/transportation/utilities, professional/scientific/technical services, and manufacturing.
  • Over the year, nonfarm employment increased 71,700 jobs. The largest increases occurred in trade/transportation/utilities, professional/business services and manufacturing.
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Blackburn Files Legislation to Block Net Neutrality

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07; March 4, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has reintroduced legislation to block the Obama Administration’s efforts to take over the Internet by implementing new Net Neutrality regulations. H.R. 1212, the Internet Freedom Act, would block the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules by stating that they shall have no force or effect and prohibits the FCC from reissuing new Net Neutrality rules.

Blackburn’s legislation, which has 19 original co-sponsors, comes in response to last week’s 3-2 vote by the FCC to implement rules regulating the Internet as a utility.

“Last week’s vote by the FCC to regulate the Internet like a 1930s era public utility is further proof that the Obama Administration will stop at nothing in their efforts to control the Internet,” Blackburn said. “There is nothing ‘free and open’ about this heavy-handed approach. These overreaching rules will stifle innovation, restrict freedoms, and lead to billions of dollars in new fees and taxes for American consumers.

“Once the federal government establishes a foothold into managing how Internet service providers run their networks they will essentially be deciding which content goes first, second, third, or not at all. My legislation will put the brakes on this FCC overreach and protect our innovators from these job-killing regulations.”

Blackburn, who serves as Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has been leading the fight against the Obama Administration’s Net Neutrality regulations since they were first proposed in 2010 by Former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski. Despite being struck down by a Federal Appeals Court in January of 2014, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler pushed forward in an effort to implement President Obama’s net neutrality rules. Blackburn introduced the Internet Freedom Act in both the 112th Congress and 113th Congress.

Read the full text of the legislation HERE.

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Conservative Group Opposed to Death Penalty Launched in TN

Press release from Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty; March 4, 2015:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 4, 2015) – Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (TADP), a statewide coalition working to eliminate the use of capital punishment, is helping establish a conservative group also opposed to the death penalty.

TADP is working with Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a national network of political and social conservatives questioning the alignment of capital punishment with conservative principles and values, to launch a Tennessee chapter of the organization.

“The conversation about the death penalty is changing,” said the Rev. Stacy Rector, executive director of TADP. “It is no longer a ‘liberals versus conservatives’ issue. The system is flawed, and people from all sides of the political spectrum are recognizing those flaws.”

The main focus of Tennessee Conservatives Concerned is to re-evaluate the current capital punishment system, which the group says is marked by “inefficiency, inequity and inaccuracy.”

One of the chapter’s biggest concerns is cost. According to the Fiscal Year report for 2013–14, the average cost per day to house a Tennessee Department of Corrections offender was $74.19. The cost to house a death row offender was $117.59. There are currently 69 people on Tennessee’s death row. If the state had no death row, it would save $1,000,000 annually in prison costs alone.

“Tennessee is spending too much money on a flawed system,” said Logan Threadgill, Tennessee Conservatives Concerned coordinator. “Year after year, our state struggles to balance its budget while it funds a wasteful and bloated system that fails to provide any benefit. Repealing the death penalty would benefit every taxpayer in Tennessee.”

Other concerns include the possibility of executing innocent people, lack of closure for victims’ families, and contradicting small-government and pro-life values.

“The core of conservative principles focuses on the need for a more limited government,” said Kenny Collins, Tennessee Conservatives Concerned coordinator and Tennessee state chairman for Young Americans for Liberty. “Giving the state the power to decide which of its citizens lives or dies – and to potentially kill an innocent person in the process – does not align with that principle in any way.”

Tennessee Conservatives Concerned joins more than 10 other state chapters in the national organization’s efforts to bring its issues with capital punishment to light.

For more information and to sign up for occasional updates from the group, visit www.tnccatdp.org.

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TN Students File Voting Rights Case Against State Voter ID Law

Press release from the Fair Elections Legal Network; March 4, 2015:

Voter ID Law Discriminates Against College Students and Violates U.S. Constitution 

Washington, DC – A federal lawsuit was filed today in the U.S. District Court in Nashville challenging Tennessee’s voter ID law as violating the voting rights of Tennessee college and university students. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a student organization and nine college students by the Fair Elections Legal Network, a national voting rights organization, and Nashville law firm, Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC. The lawsuit asks the court to rule that the current voter ID law violates the 14th Amendment and 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it discriminates against college students by excluding student ID cards from the list of accepted voter IDs.

Since 2011, the Tennessee General Assembly has consistently made it harder for young college students to vote, while making it easier for older voters to comply with or avoid the ID requirement entirely. The voter ID law allows voters to use public college and university faculty and employee ID cards but not student ID cards issued by the same institutions. The suit alleges legislators have purposely singled out students, particularly out-of-state students, in order to discourage them from voting in Tennessee, as is their right.

This case asks that college and university student ID cards be added to the list of accepted voter IDs.  Of the states that have recently adopted strict photo voter ID laws, only Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina, as well as North Carolina beginning in 2016, refuse to accept student IDs.

The plaintiffs include the Nashville Student Organizing Committee (NSOC), a student-run social justice organization that has long advocated for making student IDs an accepted form of voter ID, and nine individual students from public and private colleges and universities in Tennessee, including Fisk University and Tennessee State University, both historically black institutions in Nashville.

The suit’s organizational plaintiff NSOC released the following statement: “In this time of reflection and commemoration of the Selma March for voting rights, the Nashville Student Organizing Committee is continuing the efforts started 50 years ago by challenging Tennessee’s regressive voter ID law that seeks to silence us as students.  Voting is a moral imperative, and it is our hope that this case will create lasting change.”

”For four years, the Tennessee General Assembly has rejected every attempt to add college student IDs to the voter ID list, systematically shutting young voters out of the political process just as they become eligible to vote,” said Jon Sherman, staff attorney for the Fair Elections Legal Network. “This case will demonstrate that when politicians tinker with a voter ID list to pick their preferred voters, they violate the Constitution and the most basic aspirations of our democracy.”

“For more than five decades, this law firm has battled to ensure the civil rights of all are respected and honored. The voter ID law is just the latest version of a long line of official attempts to suppress voters,” said Douglas S. Johnston, Jr. of Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison LLC. “I look forward to joining the battle to undo this attempt to curb the voting rights of young people.”

The full text of the complaint can be found here.

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Alexander, Cohen Statements on King v. Burwell Oral Arguments

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; March 4, 2015:

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 4 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate health committee, released the following statement on today’s Supreme Court oral arguments in the King v. Burwell case, which Alexander attended:

“Hopefully the Supreme Court will rule that the law means what it says. If the court does, states will have two options for the 6 million Americans who today receive tax credit subsidies. First, states without exchanges can still create them, but Republicans in Congress will provide a better option. We will act to provide financial assistance those Americans hurt by this as well as offer states more flexibility in offering lower cost insurance policies to their citizens.”

On Monday, Alexander, along with U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah (chairman of the Senate Finance Committee) and John Barrasso of Wyoming (chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee) published an op-ed in the Washington Post about what Congress should do if the Court decides against the president in this case.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; March 4, 2015:

As the United States Supreme Court hears oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the case regarding the legality of tax subsidies going to consumers of health insurance purchased through the federal health care marketplace, Tennesseans should be made aware of what is actually at stake in this lawsuit.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 187,856 Tennesseans currently receive monthly pro-rated tax subsidies to help them afford insurance coverage purchased through the federally-run marketplace. Nationwide, these subsidies average $268 per person, per month. In the event that the Court rules in favor of the Burwell plaintiffs (a ruling that would directly contradict Congressional intent as it has been clearly and explicitly expressed by the law’s authors) 187,856 Tennessee citizens would immediately lose these subsidies, effectively causing their monthly insurance premiums to skyrocket by hundreds of dollars each month and making health coverage unaffordable for many, if not all.

Estimates from the Urban Institute indicate that, despite years of the number of uninsured Americans falling because of the President Affordable Care Act, the United States uninsured rate would jump by 30%, disproportionately in the South, should the Court rule in favor of the plaintiffs. This is an unacceptable outcome, and it would throw our state’s—and our nation’s—health insurance systems into chaos while measurably and significantly harming the health of our citizens.

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TN Senate Dems: Senate GOP Vote to Not Extend Women’s Economic Council

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; March 4, 2015:

Council provides research on women’s issues that affect all families

NASHVILLE – Legislation that would have extended the Tennessee Economic Council on Women failed to pass out of a Senate committee today, with much of the discussion centered around whether we should have an economic council on men.

“Domestic violence, human sex trafficking and sexual assault rob our state’s economy of $1 billion each year,” said Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, who voted yes to extend the council. “We know this because of the peerless research this council provides. It is heartbreaking that this important work could fall victim to the Republican war on women.”

Sponsored by state Sen. Mike Bell, SB 256 would have extended the council through 2019. The legislation remains in the Senate Government Operations committee after receiving three yes votes, four no votes and one present. If it doesn’t pass, the council will terminate June 30, 2015.

“These aren’t just women’s issues; they affect entire families,” Sen. Harris said. “Men have to recognize the advantages we have and be willing to zero in on issues that uniquely affect women. Finding solutions to these problems benefits us all.”

The council was established in 1998 to address the economic needs of women, studying employment practices, educational opportunities, child care, property rights, health care and domestic relations.