Categories
Press Releases

TN Veterans Education Task Force Announced by Haslam

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; November 14, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the formation of a task force to evaluate how to best serve Tennessee’s veterans seeking a certificate or degree beyond high school.

The task force is charged with the following:

  • To identify common educational hurdles for transitioning veterans;
  • To research best practices to serve student veterans;
  • And to make recommendations on improving opportunities for veterans to earn a certificate or degree beyond high school.

“When the men and women who have served our country come home, we want them to be able to get a high quality, good paying job,” Haslam said. “Earning a certificate or degree beyond high school is an important part of that process.

“Over the last several years, enrollment of veterans in Tennessee colleges and universities has more than doubled,” Haslam continued. “While cost is often a barrier for many students to post-secondary education, that isn’t usually the case for veterans due to federal grants and other scholarship support. We need to be better understand what unique obstacles veterans face in completing their education, and work with them to overcome those obstacles and graduate.”

Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder will chair the task force, and other members include:

  • Dr. Mary Lou Apple, president, Motlow State Community College
  • Randy Boyd, special advisor to the governor for Higher Education
  • Brian Gard, director of emergency management, University of Tennessee
  • Sen. Dolores Gresham, chairman, Senate Education Committee
  • Sean Martin, student representative, Middle Tennessee State University
  • Rep. Gerald McCormick, majority leader, Tennessee House of Representatives
  • Linda Mullins, VA education counselor, Belmont University
  • Dr. Rich Rhoda, THEC Executive Director
  • Dr. M. David Rudd, provost, University of Memphis

The task force is part of the governor’s “Drive to 55” initiative to raise the number of Tennesseans with a certificate or degree beyond high school from where it stands today at 32 percent to 55 percent by the year 2025.

The committee will engage a variety of stakeholders including higher education leaders, veterans, advocacy groups, and will present recommendations to the governor in June 2014.

Categories
Press Releases

Haslam Announces Sept. 20-26 ‘POW/MIA Recognition Week’

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; September 19, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder today announced September 20-26, 2013 as POW/MIA Recognition Week. Meanwhile, the United States Department of Defense announces the identification of Major Howard V. Andre, Jr. of Memphis who has been missing in action since July 8, 1969.

Major Andre and Major James E. Sizemore of Illinois were on a night armed reconnaissance mission when their A-26A Invader aircraft crashed in Xiangkhoang Province, Laos during the Vietnam War. Both men died in the crash but their remains were unaccounted for until April 2013. The Air Force pilots will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors on September 23 at Arlington National Cemetery. They were classified as missing in action for nearly 44 years.

“We have made a commitment as a state and country to never forget the sacrifices of Prisoners of War and those still Missing In Action,” Grinder said. “The recovery of Major Andre is a reminder that our commitment to remember should endure until all of our service members are brought home.”

Earlier this year, the remains of Private First Class Glenn Shoenmann were returned to Tennessee in January after being classified as missing in action for more than 62 years. The Grundy County native reportedly died as a Prisoner of War on December 29, 1950. He was 20-years old. Family members say Shoenmann’s remains were recovered in 2004, but the identification process was not finalized until December, 2012.

More than 83,000 Americans and more than 200 Tennesseans are still missing or unaccounted for since World War II.

In 1990, the 101st Congress passed legislation to recognize the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag. Since 2011, the week beginning the third Friday of September and extending through the following Thursday of each year shall be designated as “Tennessee POW-MIA Recognition Week” to remember and pay tribute to service members captured by the enemy and those still missing in action.

As a tribute to Prisoners of War and those still Missing in Action, the well-known POW-MIA Flag will fly over the Tennessee State Capitol on September 20.

Commissioner Grinder will present Governor Haslam’s POW/MIA Recognition Week Proclamation to attending Ex-Prisoners of War during a Tennessee Valley Healthcare System Ex-POW/MIA ceremony on September 20, 2013 at the Smyrna Town Centre at 100 Sam Ridley Parkway E., Smyrna at 10:00 a.m. (CDT).

For more information, visit the department’s web site at www.tn.gov/veteran, facebook/myTDVA or twitter @TNDVA.

Categories
Press Releases

Haslam Declares May 10 ‘Military Spouse Day’

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; May 10, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and state Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder today announced May 10, 2013 is Military Spouse Day. The day of recognition for military spouses is observed throughout the country to include Tennessee.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed a day of observance to recognize and honor the contributions and sacrifices of military spouses.

The United States Armed Forces now set aside the Friday before Mother’s Day each year to pay tribute spouses who continue to take care of their families and homes while their uniformed loved ones answer the call to serve their country.

“Behind many of our great service members is an incredibly supportive military spouse,”Grinder said. “The support of military spouses is critical to our country’s mission, to the well-being of our troops and to the stability of military homes everywhere. Today, we pause to recognize military spouses for their sacrifice and enduring commitment.”

Categories
Press Releases

Haslam Remembers Tennessee’s, Nation’s Fallen on Pearl Harbor Day

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; December 6, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and state Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder today announced December 7, 2012 as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

On December 7, 1941 more than 3,500 Americans serving in the United States military stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were killed or wounded in an unprovoked attack by the Air and Naval forces serving Japan.

Images of burning battleships and the grief of lives dominated the entire country and American allies. During an address to the American people, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed December 7, 1941 is a “date which will live in infamy”.

The United States Congress, by Public Law 103 308, as amended, has designated December 7 of each year as “National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day” to recognize and honor brave heroes who died and demonstrate deep gratitude and admiration for their sacrifice.

“It has been 71 years since the attacks on Pearl Harbor, a day that changed our country,” Haslam said. “Twenty Tennessee service members were killed on the USS Arizona during the attack, along with thousands of other American heroes, and today we remember their sacrifice.”

“The attacks on Pearl Harbor fortified our Nation’s spirit, but the darkness of that day remain burned in the memories of survivors,” Grinder said. “On this day, we remember the precious lives lost, the Veterans who survived that unprovoked attack and the families who lost loved ones. It is a privilege to meet, listen and learn from Pearl Harbor survivors and I would encourage everyone to take advantage of that opportunity while it still exists.”

Commissioner Grinder will present Governor Haslam’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Proclamations to Pearl Harbor survivors William Ferguson, George Westover as well as Tennessee Valley Healthcare System Director Juan Morales during the Pearl Harbor Day 71st Anniversary Commemoration ceremony at the Flynn G. Humphreys Chapel at the VA Medical Center- Nashville, 1310 24th Avenue South, at 10:15 a.m. on Friday, December 7. Media contact is Christopher Alexander at (615) 873-7932.

Commissioner Grinder will also present the Governor’s proclamation during Senator Bob Corker’s Rally Point Veterans Outreach Event at the Gallatin Civic Center, 210 Albert Gallatin Avenue at 9:00 a.m. (CST) on Friday, December 7. Media contact is Micah Johnson or Chuck Harper at (202) 228-6523.

Categories
Business and Economy Education News Tax and Budget

Haslam Takes Up Task of Trimming Down Spending

Gov. Bill Haslam kicked off a four-day stretch of departmental hearings Monday as a warm-up to drafting his first state budget.

The new governor digested spending-plan projections from some heavy fiscal hitters right off the bat, including the Departments of Health, Education and Higher Education, which all had to present budget scenarios with reductions of 1 percent and 2 percent.

“We have 23 departments, if you add up all the requests, it will be a number obviously that we can’t fund,” Haslam said during a short break between hearings. “It’s their job to request that and to prioritize that … and then we have to wade through that at the end of the day.”

Haslam said he’s confident there’ll be fewer employees on the state payroll under his budget plan. But he said reductions need to be made “surgically” instead of by slashing staff with massive layoffs.

Haslam also heard from the Departments of Tourist Development and Financial Institutions Monday. On Tuesday, he is scheduled to hear from the Education Lottery Corporation and the Departments of Environment and Conservation, Transportation, Labor and Workforce Development, Corrections, Veterans Affairs, General Services, Commerce and Insurance, and Economic and Community Development. Hearings are expected to continue through Thursday morning.

Here are some highlights from Monday’s hearings:

Education

Education officials proposed an increase of $423 million in the state-funded portion of its budget, bringing the overall budget to $5.1 billion. Acting Education Commissioner Patrick Smith said the increase includes pay rasies and increased state funding to schools mandated by inflation and the state’s school funding formula.

Haslam told reporters that he’s committed to fully funding schools as called for under the formula, known as the Basic Education Program.

“If you look at new dollars that are available in the state, at the end of the day, about half of them will be end up taken up in (Basic Education Program) formula and TennCare increases, just by formula, not by doing anything different,” he said.

Smith outlined about $3.5 million in possible cuts, which would eliminate positions and supply costs. The proposal would also reduce operating costs for the state’s schools for the blind and deaf, cut grants that support public television stations operated by schools and reduce other programs. Without additional funds, about $70 million in other programs and grants paid for with one-time money will be cut.

The total education budget is estimated to decrease this year by about $510 million because of a $1 billion reduction in federal funds.

Tourist Development

State tourism officials say they want to build two new “Welcome Centers,” even though all departments have been asked to propose reductions to their annual budget as one-time federal stimulus dollars run out this year. According to the department, the state currently operates 14 Welcome Centers across the state.

They described plans to build a center as part of a solar farm in Haywood County, and another visitor center along I-26 in Sullivan County.

Haslam questioned the expansion plans: “I’m just wondering why, in tight times, we’re adding them.”

The centers had “been on the books for 10 years,” and the planning and funding had been approved for several years as well, Department Commissioner Susan Whitaker said.

Health

Haslam opened his first budget hearing with Commissioner of Health Susan Cooper, who emphasized the department’s role in instilling good health into all environments and not specifically focused on individual clinical care. She addressed disease prevention and outbreak investigations, immunizations, licensing facilities and emergency preparedness.

The department employs roughly 3,000 people.

She noted that in 2005 the state ranked 48th in the nation in health status but is now 42nd, crediting decreased use of tobacco and returns on investment in community efforts to fight diabetes.

Haslam set the tone early that he would ask many questions along the way, frequently interjecting and asking if stimulus funds had been involved in expenditures.

Cooper noted that good health factors can be attractive to new businesses. She outlined a base budget of $539 million.

The department offered several potential budget reduction areas such as travel, cutting communications costs, abolishing a few positions and eliminating a hemophilia program, which she quickly added would require a change in statute.

Higher Education

Joe DiPietro, president of the University of Tennessee, and John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents made their first budget appearances since taking their new positions. The message they gave Haslam was that while there are great financial challenges facing the system, the state has high value in its higher education institutions.

Richard G. Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission led off the presentation and underscored the financial crunch by telling Haslam that in the last 10 years enrollment at the state’s four-year schools has gone up 22 percent but that they have seen appropriations fall 33 percent. At the same time, tuition and fees have risen 74 percent.

Meanwhile, Rhoda said, enrollment at two-year schools is up 38 percent during that period while appropriations are down 26 percent. But in that time, tuition and fees for those schools have risen 126 percent.

Morgan said space constraints are a serious problem at many of the state’s technology centers. DiPietro said one issue facing UT is that some buildings are over 40 years old and in need of repairs. When Haslam asked the higher ed panel if they had any creative ideas to address the financial stress on the system, one possibility Morgan raised was to apply means-testing to the HOPE scholarships derived from the state’s lottery. Haslam said after the hearing he is not ready to take such a step.

Reid Akins and Mike Morrow contributed to this report.