Wednesday, September 30

Tennessee Legislators Plan to Meet With Volkswagen in Chattanooga (WDEF)) Tennessee legislators wonder if Volkswagen will respond quickly to deal with the emissions scandal, now that the automaker has new leadership. That response is especially important to Chattanooga because jobs could be on the line if sales begin to drop. While the world continues to digest the idea that Volkswagen would actually rig emission controls on diesel vehicles, production of the award-winning gasoline powered Passat continues without a blip at Enterprise South. The question is—will it stay that way?

VW expansion, production on track in city despite diesel scandal, state officials say (Times-Free Press) As Volkswagen manages what’s termed as the biggest crisis in its history, Tennessee’s economic development commissioner says the carmaker’s Chattanooga plant expansion is on track. State Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd, in a memo to the General Assembly, said that 50 percent of VW’s $930 million investment in the project is already spent or committed.The north body shop expansion of the plant is complete, and equipment installation is underway, he said in the memo dated Monday.

Despite Volkswagen Scandal, Europe’s Diesel Habit Could Be Hard to Kick (NY Times) A loyal Volkswagen owner for years, Jane Kelley was “shocked,” she says, by recent revelations that the German company had cheated on emissions tests in the United States. Snug in Ms. Kelley’s garage in North London recently was a white 2013 Passat powered by a 2-liter diesel engine. The company says that as many as 11 million of its cars — Volkswagens, Audis, Skodas and SEATs with diesel engines — were equipped with software designed to fool emissions testers.

VW details brands affected by scandal; fix due in Oct (AP) Volkswagen’s commercial vehicles and cars from its Spanish unit SEAT are among the 11 million fitted with a diesel engine that can cheat on emissions tests, the company said Tuesday. Volkswagen AG has admitted using a piece of engine software to cheat on diesel car emissions tests in the U.S., where authorities say there are 482,000 such cars. The company says that up to 11 million vehicles worldwide were fitted with the engine in question.

Volkswagen May Not Face Environmental Criminal Charges (WSJ) A Justice Department investigation into whether Volkswagen AG should face criminal charges for cheating on emissions tests highlights what some lawmakers say is a long-standing gap in U.S. environmental law. Despite the scale of Volkswagen’s behavior—it has admitted using test-evading software in as many as 11 million cars world-wide—the German auto maker may not face an environmental crime charge here, legal experts say. If the Justice Department does pursue a criminal case, it would be the first-ever against an auto maker for skirting emissions standards.

MTSU, Cleveland State sign transfer agreement (Times-Free Press) The presidents of Middle Tennessee State University and Cleveland State Community College signed an agreement Tuesday making it easier for community college students to transfer into the university. MTSU’s President Sidney McPhee said the school has been actively recruiting transfer students for years, and has been working with community colleges to make students’ transfer into the university “seamless.” Touting MTSU’s ranking as the school that enrolls the most transfer students in the state, McPhee said partnerships like the one signed with Cleveland State are very strategic for the university.

Rejected Nashville charter appeals to state (Tennessean) The organizers behind the International Academy of Excellence made an impassioned plea to the state Tuesday as to why it should be a charter school in Nashville. The charter school hopeful is the first of three operators to be heard by the Tennessee State Board of Education’s staff. Officials from the state board’s offices are holding hearings as part of an application review process.

Tennessee Prison System Seeks To Improve Its Image By Opening Doors To More Tours (WPLN) The Tennessee Dept. of Correction is inviting more people — including reporters — to come see its prisons for themselves, especially after a slew of media reports in recent months about alleged prison violence against guards, poor staffing conditions and misclassified inmate deaths. On a recent Tuesday morning, Bruce Westbrooks, the warden of Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville, led a Tennessean reporter and me on an hour-long tour of the facility, after we got finger-printed, scanned and stamped. Photos and microphones were not allowed.

Gun advocates to sue city over Chilhowee Park guns ban (News-Sentinel) Gun advocates are preparing to bring a lawsuit against the city of Knoxville for what they say was a violation of the state guns in parks law during the Tennessee Valley Fair at Chilhowee Park earlier this month. The Tennessee Firearms Association strongly opposed the decision by Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero to ban guns at Chilhowee Park during the fair despite a state law signed by Gov. Bill Haslam in April that allows handgun-carry permit-holders to carry guns in local parks.

Judge rules against legalizing assisted suicide in Tennessee (Tennessean) A former Democratic gubernatorial candidate who is terminally ill cannot die by assisted suicide, a judge ruled Tuesday, saying doctors engaging in such a practice are committing “criminal conduct.” John Jay Hooker has terminal cancer and has doctors who have expressed a willingness to prescribe him a lethal dosage of painkillers.

Judge rules against Hooker’s assisted suicide lawsuit (AP) A Nashville judge has ruled against a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate who is terminally ill and wants to die by assisted suicide. John Jay Hooker has terminal cancer and has doctors who have expressed a willingness to prescribe him a lethal dosage of painkillers. The doctors sought protection from prosecution if the 84-year-old Hooker was administered the drugs. But Chancellor Carol McCoy ruled against the plaintiffs on Tuesday, saying they “do not have standing to bring this action.” She said administering such drugs would be engaging in “criminal conduct.”

State Road-Trouble Tour Comes to Memphis (Memphis Flyer) Tennessee road revenues have stagnated. Highway construction costs have risen. Tennessee has a backlog of $6 billion in road project, more than $800 million worth of them around Memphis. Something must be done. That’s the word from the Memphis stop of state Senator Jim Tracy’s nine-city listening tour on Tuesday. Tracy (R-Shelbyville) is the chairman of the Senate’s Transportation and Safety Committee and is using the tour to, of course, listen to local officials but to also discuss the challenges in funding the state’s long-term needs for its transportation system.

Insurers against workers comp bill (Jackson Sun) Chris Allison and Roger Smith are competitors in handling West Tennessee insurance claims, but Tuesday they told The Jackson Sun they were united in their opposition to a bill that seeks to change how employers handle workers compensation for employees. The bill, as it is written, would allow companies to cap benefits at five years or until medical expenses hit $500,000. The current program allows for coverage for as long as treatment is needed. The proposed bill could also limit what is covered under workers compensation claims, meaning some items currently covered could no longer be covered.

Syrian Refugees ‘Challenge Every Moral Fiber Within Us,’ Says Corker (WPLN) The flood of refugees from the civil war in Syria “should challenge every moral fiber within us,” U.S. Senator Bob Corker said Tuesday morning. The remarks by the Tennessee Republican opened a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee aimed at finding ways to help the 11 million people — half of them children — whom the conflict has displaced. The hearing came as resettlement organizations in Tennessee and across the nation are preparing themselves for a wave of refugees from Syria.

Congressman Duncan questions Planned Parenthood leader (WBIR) Planned Parenthood’s president faced a string of questions from Republicans on Tuesday, including one from East Tennessee at a contentious committee hearing. Federal funding for that healthcare group is under scrutiny after an anti-abortion activist released secret videos with planned parenthood employees discussing the sale of tissue from fetuses. Republican Congressman John Duncan Jr., from the 2nd district in East Tennessee, participated in the hearing and at one point asked Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards if she defended the sale of baby body parts.

Roe: No federal government shutdown (Times-News) There won’t be a federal government shutdown despite a leadership transition in the House, GOP-led attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and continuing differences over spending, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe said Tuesday. Talk of a government shutdown seemed to fade away after House Speaker John Boehner announced late last week that he is stepping down. Roe, R-Tenn., said he was surprised by Boehner’s move, although Roe said he found out Boehner had bought a South Florida condo about a year and a half ago. “(Boehner’s) plan was to resign at the end of the last term but when (former House Majority Leader) Eric Cantor was defeated (in the 2014 GOP Primary), there would have been a big void in our leadership with Cantor and him both gone at the same time. People requested him to stay on a while longer,” Roe noted.

TVA group looks at land violations (News-Sentinel) TVA manages 11,000 miles of shoreline and hundreds of thousands of acres, so the issue often arises of how to deal with it when someone puts a house, a fence, a floating home or some other object where it doesn’t belong. These are called encroachments, and the Tennessee Valley Authority is looking at some of these issues now. Its 20-member Regional Resource Stewardship Council just wrapped up two days of discussing the matters, and is working on a document to give to the TVA board and staff.

Agreement reached in Holston River pollution case (WBIR) A new agreement aims to reduce RDX pollution levels in the Holston River by 2020. RDX is an explosive chemical that can cause cancer. It’s produced at the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Kingsport. In a lawsuit last November, the Tennessee Clean Water Network said it found RDX in the Holston River as far south as Knoxville. The group says it, the department of defense, and the plant operator…filed a proposed settlement in federal court yesterday. If approved, it would give the plant until July 2020 to meet federal RDX limits.

Unions reach tentative agreement with ORNL contractor (News-Sentinel) Negotiators for UT-Battelle, the Department of Energy’s managing contractor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Atomic Trades Labor Council, which represents 13 unions and about 700 hourly workers at ORNL, reached a tentative agreement Tuesday on a new five-year contract. ATLC President Steve Jones confirmed that the union leadership will recommend that the rank-and-file at ORNL ratify the proposed contract. Voting is scheduled for 12:30-9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7, at the Machinists Union Hall, 101 E. Lincoln Road, in Oak Ridge.

Nursing Homes Bill for More Therapy Than Patients Need, U.S. Says (NY Times) Nursing homes receive far more in Medicare payments than it costs them to provide care, exploiting the billing system in some cases by giving patients more therapy services than they need, federal investigators said in a new report. The report, to be issued on Wednesday by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that nursing homes regularly filed claims for the highest, most expensive level of therapy, regardless of what patients required.

Vanderbilt expands footprint at 2525 West End tower (Tennessean) Vanderbilt will take up 21,000 additional square feet of space at the 2525 West End mixed-use building, expanding its overall footprint beyond 60 percent. On Dec. 1, the university is expected to take possession of space previously occupied by Jefferies & Co., M G Law (now part of Frost Brown Todd), Raymond James and Bank of Tennessee.

Bass, Berry & Sims Launches Nonprofit Practice Group (Memphis Daily News) The nonprofit sector represents a sizable chunk of the Memphis-area economy – some 8 percent of total employment, with almost 45,000 jobs. That’s according to former Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper, citing figures from the Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence to explain why the law firm Cooper is back practicing with, Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, has started a practice group focused on nonprofits. Cooper has been tapped to lead that group, following his service as the state’s attorney general from 2006 to 2014.

Only woman on Georgia’s death row is executed (News-Sentinel) The only woman on Georgia’s death row was executed early Wednesday, making her the first woman put to death by the state in seven decades. Kelly Renee Gissendaner was pronounced dead by injection of pentobarbital at 12:21 a.m. at the state prison in Jackson. She was convicted of murder in the February 1997 slaying of her husband after she conspired with her lover, who stabbed Douglas Gissendaner to death. Kelly Gissendaner, 47, sobbed as she said she loved her children and apologized to Douglas Gissendaner’s family, saying she hopes they can find some peace and happiness. She also addressed her lawyer, Susan Casey, who was among the witnesses.

Arkansas death row inmates challenge execution secrecy law (AP) Eight death row inmates have asked a judge to cancel their upcoming lethal injections in Arkansas, where executions have been on hold for a decade, arguing that prison officials’ refusal to reveal where they obtain execution drugs is unconstitutional. Similar arguments have been unsuccessfully used to challenge other state’s secrecy laws, but the filing argues that Arkansas’ new law violates a previous settlement with the state that ensured inmates would be given the information. The inmates’ attorneys say the settlement constitutes a contract, and the Arkansas Constitution prohibits laws from being passed to undermine a contract.–329986671.html

Should Medicaid Recipients Have to Work? (Stateline) If Arizona gets its way, its able-bodied, low-income adults will face the toughest requirements in the country to receive health care coverage through Medicaid. Most of the state’s Medicaid recipients, and new applicants, would have to have a job, be looking for one or be in job training to qualify for the joint federal-state program for the poor. They would have to contribute their own money to health savings accounts, which they could tap into only if they met work requirements or engaged in certain types of healthy behavior, such as completing wellness physical exams or participating in smoking cessation classes. And most recipients would be limited to just five years of coverage as adults.

More States Allow Ex-Drug Offenders to Get Benefits (WSJ) States increasingly are abolishing a two-decade-old ban on welfare and food stamps for people convicted of drug crimes, the latest in a wave of policy changes aimed at easing the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction. This year, Alabama and Texas lifted restrictions on food stamps for ex-offenders, following similar moves by California and Missouri in 2014. Alabama’s law also permits former convicts who submit to drug testing to receive welfare. Congress disqualified people convicted of state and federal drug offenses—but not other crimes—from receiving such benefits in a 1996 overhaul of federal welfare programs. The law, however, allows states to make exceptions as they see fit.

Kentucky clerk Kim Davis claims private meeting with Pope Francis (Washington Post) No photo — official, selfie or otherwise — of an encounter has emerged. But same-sex marriage-opposing Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis purportedly met with Pope Francis during his visit to the United States. The claim came from the Liberty Counsel — billed as an “international nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989″ on its Web site — that represents Davis in her ongoing legal struggles with marriage licenses in Rowan County. Davis was jailed for six days this month after refusing to issue any marriage licenses after the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year legalizing gay marriage nationwide.


Ted Evanoff: Bill Haslam keeps the title of America’s richest politician (Commercial Appeal) Just like last year, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was proclaimed the wealthiest politician in the entire republic. Forbes magazine came out with its annual ranking of America’s 400 richest billionaires on Tuesday and there was the image of the state’s 57-year-old governor, looking at once thoughtful and satisfied. “Bill Haslam is America’s richest elected official,” observes Forbes, which nevertheless places the heir to the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain fairly low on the list of the super wealthy.

Editorial: President DiPietro, our case for opting out of Haslam’s privatization initiative (UT Daily Beacon) “(Haslam) is going against what we need in East Tennessee,” said Jean Allred, a custodial services worker. “He’s just out to make a dollar. He doesn’t care about the people.” If Governor Bill Haslam successfully privatizes the management of state buildings, workers like Allred face slashed benefits, reduced hours and impersonal corporate treatment — if they keep their jobs at all. The United Campus Workers Union estimates that privatization could impact over 1,000 jobs with benefits at UT alone. This isn’t just speculation — we’ve seen how these plans have affected workers in the past.

Clint Cooper: VW should take a page from Tylenol (Times-Free Press) Volkswagen would do well to remember the 1982 Tylenol tragedy and how drugmaker Johnson & Johnson came out the other side. Seven people died that year after taking capsules of Extra-Strength Tylenol, which had been laced with cyanide. The forthright way in which the company dealt with the public during the crisis assured the product would continue to be viable.Before the deaths, Tylenol accounted for 37 percent of the analgesic market but fell to 7 percent after the poisonings. Because of the way the company handled things, though, it had climbed back to 30 percent a year later.

Guest column: Vanderbilt study is an opportunity for improvement (Commercial Appeal) In a long-awaited report, Vanderbilt University released findings about Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K that are disappointing, yet not totally surprising. As an advocate for quality early education and increased access for economically disadvantaged children, I believe this study is an opportunity for serious reflection and commitment to improvement.

Greg Johnson: Federal shutdown would dim fall colors, spell trouble for Smokies (News-Sentinel) U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s announcement last week he would step down thrilled some, chilled some and, apparently, dramatically decreased the possibility of a government shutdown. In fact, according the office of U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr., R-Knoxville, a vote on a “clean” continuing resolution to fund the federal government could come as soon as today. Lovers of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park should certainly hope so. According to the Great Smoky Mountains Association, a nonprofit that raises millions to support the Smokies, the financial impact of another shutdown could be broad and deep, just as in 2013.

Frank Cagle: Republicans have lost trust in leaders (News-Sentinel) A Fox News poll last week revealed that 62 percent of Republicans feel betrayed by their leadership. I can only assume the rest haven’t been paying attention. It would have been better if the resignation announcement Friday had come from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but House Speaker John Boehner’s exit is better than nothing. In 2010 Republicans were told to just give the GOP a House majority and things would be different. Then it became: We have to have control of the Senate to really get things done. So Republicans went out and elected a Republican majority in the Senate. Unfortunately, it includes business as usual establishment figures like McConnell and his cronies. How’s that Republican majority working out for you?

Editorial: A global recession? (Washington Post) It’s beginning to look like the economic game of 2016 will be a tug of war, defined by a simple question. Will the plodding but steady U.S. recovery be derailed by the weakness of so-called “emerging market” economies, led by China, Brazil and others? The betting (so far) is that the American recovery will survive, but it’s hardly a sure thing. The outcome, needless to say, could decisively affect the presidential election. The fact that the question is being asked at all constitutes a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom.

Tuesday, September 29

Gov. Haslam worried about VW scandal’s effect on sales, jobs at Chattanooga plant (Times-Free Press) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam urged Volkswagen to quickly address consumers’ worries about the company’s vehicle emissions-testing scandal because of the potential impact on sales and jobs at VW’s Chattanooga plant.”My primary concern is getting Volkswagen back to where they’re in a mode to sell cars,” Haslam told reporters in Nashville on Monday. Haslam’s concerns come as state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, tries to set up a Chattanooga meeting between legislators and VW officials next month.

The History of Volkswagen, ‘The People’s Car’ (WSJ Video) Volkswagen has always been more than a car. It occupies a special place in German society. WSJ’s Dipti Kapadia goes through some of the iconic moments for the German auto maker, now caught in a scandal over emissions.

Gov. Haslam to review data on Pre-K program (AP) Gov. Bill Haslam says he plans to review data from a recent study on the effectiveness of Tennessee’s pre-kindergarten program. The study released Monday shows positive effects of the program are significant at first, but fade out in early elementary grades. The Republican governor told reporters following an event in Nashville Monday morning that he hasn’t had a chance to thoroughly examine the data, but plans to “dig into it deeper.” Haslam says he believes “quality pre-K, with good follow up, can have an impact.”

In wake of latest Vandy study, Haslam remains iffy on funding pre-K expansion (Times-Free Press) Children from low-income families benefit significantly at first from Tennessee’s pre-kindergarten program, but their gains soon begin fading, according to the latest installment of Vanderbilt University’s landmark, five-year study of Tennessee pre-K’s effectiveness. One of Vanderbilt Peabody College’s investigators said researchers were surprised to discover that not only did students in a control group who had skipped pre-K quickly begin catching up to pre-K students within a year or two, but pre-K students themselves fell behind their peers by the end of third grade.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Tennessee’s Pre-K Program (Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt’s Unflattering Pre-K Study Strikes A Nerve, But What Does It Really Say? (WPLN) Two Vanderbilt researchers are rocking the education world this week with their five-year study that shows virtually no long-term benefit to pre-kindergarten in Tennessee. The Peabody College professors are now trying to answer why getting a head start isn’t necessarily beneficial. This study was meant to monitor the effectiveness of Tennessee’s voluntary pre-K program. But co-investigator Mark Lipsy says it really raises questions about early elementary grades.

Pre-K study shows early growth lost by 2nd grade (Commercial Appeal) Students in economically disadvantaged areas in Tennessee see significant gains in pre-kindergarten classrooms, but quickly lose that growth over the next few years, a Vanderbilt University study released Monday shows. While pre-K has the potential for significant impact, the study says, students are not sustaining any meaningful growth. The study, a partnership between Vanderbilt and the Tennessee Department of Education, took five years and cost $6 million. It was the first randomized study of Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K Program, known as TN-VPK.

Landmark Tennessee study contradicts conventional wisdom about the power of pre-K (Chalkbeat Tennessee) A new Vanderbilt University study suggests that public pre-kindergarten programs in Tennessee might actually negatively impact students as they advance through school, surprising experts and advocates alike. But the study’s lead researchers say that policymakers shouldn’t abandon pre-K as they seek to close the achievement gap between minority and lower- and higher-income students.

Study casts doubt over pre-K programs in Tennessee (Tennessean) Tennessee’s voluntary pre-kindergarten programs help students better prepare for kindergarten, but most of those gains are lost as students advance through elementary school, according to a study by Vanderbilt University. The study released Monday found that while most students that were enrolled in a pre-K program achieved higher on literacy tests, were better behaved and had a better attitude about school than their peers in kindergarten, that changed as years progressed. After the end of kindergarten, most students enrolled only in kindergarten began to progress to the level of the students previously enrolled in pre-K.

Advocates press for Insure Tennessee at D-B forum (Times-News) Insure Tennessee needs to be resurrected by state lawmakers and passed, a panel of advocates told about 50 citizens at a forum held at Dobyns-Bennett High School on Monday night. Insure Tennessee is Gov. Bill Haslam’s Medicaid expansion proposal that died early this year in the state Senate. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said a month ago the proposal has no chance of passing the GOP-controlled legislature next year.

Lyft to locate in Nashville, hire 380 workers for customer center (Times-Free Press) Lyft, the San Francisco-based mobile app and transportation company, announced today it will locate its customer experience operations in Nashville. The shared riding service, the chief rival to Uber, will invest $51 million and create 380 new jobs. Tennesee Gov. Bill Haslam thanked Lyft today for the company’s investment in Nashville. “We know companies have a choice in where they do business, and this announcement supports our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs,” Haslam said.

Israel trade mission offers lessons in start-up culture (Tennessean) Recently I was privileged to be included in Governor Haslam’s trade mission to Israel, along with other business leaders from across the state. It was a remarkable trip for many reasons, and the country has certainly earned its moniker, Start-up Nation, as coined in the 2010 book of the same title by authors Saul Singer and Dan Senor.

Website ranks ETSU in the Top 20 for pre-med students (WJHL) A website that ranks higher education has included East Tennessee State University on its list of the top 20 schools in the country for students who plan to enter medical school. The website, ranks a wide array of degree programs at institutes of higher education. ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine landed on the “Top 20 Pre-Med Schools in America” alongside other schools including Cornell University, Creighton University, Boston University, Dartmouth Medical School and Johns Hopkins University.

 University of Memphis put on list with Harvard, Duke, Stanford (Memphis Business Journal) The University of Memphis has one of the 25 top doctoral programs in business in the U.S., according to a new ranking., which tracks graduate school data, ranked the University of Memphis’ Ph.D. in business the 25th in the country. The site noted the balance of the school’s program, which “aims to teach students both quantitative and qualitative skills in the field, as well as help them grow comfortable with the research process.”

Tennessee offers free high school equivalency tests, classes (Times-News) A new high school equivalency test is free for the taking locally and across Tennessee and has been since July 1. And those with work schedule or childcare issues interfering with in-person classes can take free online classes, which started Aug. 1, to prepare for either of two available high school equivalency diploma tests. Already, about 400 statewide are in the online program, according to a state official. “We want people to know,” Jason Beard, state administrator of Adult Education in the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said of the free tests and free online classes to get ready for the diploma tests.

Schools deny Islamic curriculum records request (Tennessean) Several Middle Tennessee school districts won’t comply with an open records request for content that concerns Islamic curriculum being taught in public schools. The American Center for Law & Justice made the records request of all 146 Tennessee school districts earlier this month. The ACLJ is a Christian-based nonprofit that advocates and litigates legal, legislative and cultural issues regarding freedom of religion and free speech.

Tennessee is No. 1 in nation for unspent federal funds to improve drinking water (Times-Free Press) This is one national ranking Tennessee officials are not likely to boast about any time soon. As of July, Tennessee had the highest percentage nationally of unspent money from a federal program used to improve the nation’s local drinking water systems and ensure the water flowing through your tap is reliable and safe. The national figures, compiled by The Associated Press, show that of the estimated $194.2 million in cumulative funds Tennessee received since 2011 under the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, 15.67 percent remains unspent.

1,263 Tennesseans Died From Opioid Overdoses In 2014 (AP) According to statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health, over 1,200 Tennesseans died in 2014 from opioid overdoses despite measures designed to stop the addiction. There were 97 more deaths caused by opioid overdoses last year than in 2013. Statistics show more people died in 2014 from opioid overdose in the state than in car accidents or by gunshots. Spokesman from the state’s health department David Reagan says the highest frequency of overdose deaths are found in men and women ages 45 to 55.

Naloxone usage spreads across Knox County (WBIR) Knoxville Police Department (KPD) officers started carrying Naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote, in early September, and now the medication could soon be more readily available to the public. Using two doses of Naloxone, KPD officers have saved three lives in less than a month. “We know the need is there,” KPD public information officer Darrell DeBusk said. “We hope that our efforts will help.”

State Museum Stores Commissioner’s Private Art Collection (WTVF) The Tennessee State Museum houses nearly 200 works of art owned by a member of the State Museum Commission, which oversees the museum. The arrangement has raised concerns from another commission member about whether taxpayers are paying to store privately owned art — despite limited space and staff at the museum. Commissioner Walter Knestrick is a longtime collector of the works of Tennessee artist Red Grooms. Many of the Grooms paintings that he owns are located at the Tennessee State Museum.

John Jay Hooker Files Motion In Fight For End Of Life Choice (WTVF) Political activist, John Jay Hooker, has begun his fight for the right to die with dignity, and has called for a ruling on the matter sooner rather than later. Hooker was diagnosed with stage 4 terminal cancer in January. Monday, he and his legal team filed a motion to expedite a ruling from Chancellor Carol McCoy. The Chancellor heard his case in June challenging the constitutionality of a state law that makes it illegal for someone to take their own life with the assistance of a doctor.

Lawmaker calls for investigation into inmate death (Tennessean) A state lawmaker is calling on Gov. Bill Haslam to order a full investigation into a 2013 prison death classified as natural by The Tennessee Department of Correction. Sen. Jeff Yarbro, a Nashville Democrat, said that “disturbing revelations” about the death of 55-year-old Elbert Thornton at West Tennessee State Penitentiary in 2013 that were chronicled in a Tennessean investigation on Sunday should prompt immediate action, including a review of the Department of Correction’s internal investigation into his death.

Lawmaker Calls For Investigation Into Inmate Death (WTVF) A lot of questions have surrounded the death of an inmate inside a Tennessee State Prison in 2013, and on Monday Senator Jeff Yarbro had some tough words for those in charge of that system. He cited an investigation by another media outlet that showed Elbert Thornton died from blunt force trauma and had multiple injuries including broken bones and burns. An internal memo listed Thornton’s death as “natural causes”.

Rep. Blackburn: ​From Music City, U.S.A to Medical City, U.S.A. (Nashville Business Journal) In 1950, WSM announcer David Cobb first used the term “Music City U.S.A.” on air. By then, Nashville was already home to blues, R&B, gospel, jazz, country western music and more. Tennesseans are proud of the fact that Nashville writes and produces the music that speaks to many beating hearts. This month, another industry which has a long, rich history in the Mid-South, has been grabbing headlines. They, too, are interested in hearts.The Nashville Health Care Council recently published its annual report showing the Nashville health care industry contributes nearly $40 billion and more than 250,000 jobs to our local economy every year.

TVA panel considers floating homes, other items (News-Sentinel) A special TVA panel is taking a look this week at how the federal utility manages the rivers, streams and lands under its control, including its policies concerning floating homes on its lakes. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Regional Resource Stewardship Council is holding public meetings Monday and today to get updates on its initiatives involving floating houses, dam projects and encroachment management, and will hold a public comment session at 9 a.m. Wednesday at TVA headquarters in downtown Knoxville.

NRC grants another 20 years of operation to Sequoyah plant (Times-Free Press) The Tennessee Valley Authority can operate its Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant until 2041 after regulators Monday approved license extensions for both of Sequoyah’s reactors. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission agreed to extend the operating licenses for both unit 1 and unit 2 at the Sequoyah for another 20 years beyond the units’ originally planned lifespan. The NRC determined TVA had an adequate aging management program in place for the plant near Soddy Daisy, which TVA began building in 1969 and began power generation in 1981.

In smog battle, industry gets help from unlikely source: black business group (Washington Post) For years, the air over central Pittsburgh has ranked among the country’s dirtiest, with haze and soot that regularly trigger spikes in asthma attacks, especially among the urban poor. So it might have seemed odd that a black business group would choose this spot to denounce proposed restrictions on smog. But that’s exactly what the head of the National Black Chamber of Commerce did this month. Chamber President Harry C. Alford appeared before some of Pittsburgh’s African American leaders to urge opposition to a White House plan for tougher limits on air pollution. Then he went on radio to deliver the same appeal.

Alcoa splitting, ET plant to be in new company (News-Sentinel) For the first time in its founding in 1919, the city of Alcoa might soon not have a plant within its limits that belongs to a company named Alcoa. No worries, though. The plant’s not going away, just the name. Alcoa Inc., which just completed a $300 million expansion of its Blount County facility, announced Monday it will split into two publicly traded companies, with one focusing on mining operations and the other focused on technology and involvement in the aerospace and automotive industries.

Coding Countdown Causes Medical Mayhem (Governing) After a two-year delay, U.S. hospitals have to start using a new coding system in October — a move that could hurt rural and smaller hospitals particularly hard. Have you been sucked into a jet engine, twice? Suffering from problems with your in-laws? Did you get injured in the library? Well, you’re in luck. Because there’s a code for that.

Skyridge Medical Center Joins Tennova Healthcare (WDEF) Tennova Healthcare, one of the state’s largest health networks, announced today its expansion to Cleveland with the addition of SkyRidge Medical Center. With this new alliance, SkyRidge will change its name to Tennova Healthcare-Cleveland. Tennova currently has 12 hospitals in Tennessee and more than 80 physician clinics.

SkyRidge Medical Center in Bradley County changes ownership (WRCB) SkyRidge Medical Center has joined one of the largest hospital networks in Tennessee, Tennova Healthcare. SkyRidge, soon to become Tennova Healthcare – Cleveland, joins four hospitals in West Tennessee. Tennova Healthcare is one of the largest healthcare systems in the Volunteer State with 12 hospitals and 80 physician clinics. The network includes approximately 1,800 licensed beds, 1,700 physicians on the combined active medical staffs, and 6,800 employees, with more than 51,000 admissions and 300,000 emergency department visits each year.

Health care names, including lots of locals, leading market lower (Nashville Post) Investors still don’t feel all that good about the prospects for U.S. stocks and have sent the broad market indices down about 2 percent to start the week. However, the red is much brighter in the health care sector, which has been a relative bright spot of late. And Middle Tennessee companies haven’t been able to escape the downdraft: At about 11:30 a.m., the stocks of some of the biggest companies based in the Nashville area were off at least 5 percent. The biggest, HCA Holdings, has lost $1.9 billion in value this morning. The other five health care names listed here have lost a combined $1.3 billion in market value.

State comptroller’s office alerted to Civic Coliseum investigation (News-Sentinel) As mandated by state law, city officials alerted the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury of an investigation underway at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum that has resulted in four employees placed on administrative leave. City officials on Sept. 17 alerted the comptroller’s office of an investigation by the Knoxville Police Department involving the Civic Coliseum. The “fraud reporting form” submitted to the state does not elaborate on the allegations under review.

4 Gov-Friendly Startups to Watch (Government Technology) Can these companies make a difference in how governments share, conserve and connect? The smart city market is evolving, its solutions becoming more pragmatic and its benefits more potent. Here are four examples of startups that just might make a big difference in how governments share, conserve and connect.

As Worries Rise and Players Flee, a Missouri School Board Cuts Football (NY Times) Students and families at Maplewood Richmond Heights High School are looking forward to homecoming, the highlight of the autumn school calendar for decades. But for the first time, the centerpiece event will be soccer, not football. The school board in Maplewood, a St. Louis suburb, disbanded the high school’s football team in June, even though it reached the state championship game five years ago. A decade ago, such a move would have seemed radical. But concerns are growing about football players’ safety, and soccer and other sports are gaining popularity.

It’s sleazy, it’s totally illegal, and yet it could become the future of retirement (Washington Post) Over 100 years ago in America — before Social Security, before IRAs, corporate pensions and 401(k)s — there was a ludicrously popular (and somewhat sleazy) retirement scheme called the tontine. At their peak, around the turn of the century, tontines represented nearly two-thirds of the American insurance market, holding about 7.5 percent of national wealth. It’s estimated that by 1905, there were 9 million tontine policies active in a nation of only 18 million households. Tontines became so popular that historians credit them for single-handedly underwriting the ascendance of the American insurance industry.


Guest columnist: Tennessee Promise efforts show great progress (Tennessean) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam convened a summit of state leaders in Nashville recently to reflect on the progress of Tennessee’s national head-turning educational program known as Tennessee Promise. The governor’s revolutionary program offers two years of higher education or vocational-technological training at no cost to high school graduates in our state.

Monday, September 28

Gov. Haslam warns about gas tax increase for road projects (AP) Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is opening the door to putting off a gas tax increase in an election year, but warns that officials need to stop “kidding ourselves” about Tennessee’s long list of unfunded road projects. Haslam stressed to reporters after an economic development announcement in Murfreesboro last week that he has yet to make any specific recommendations about how to begin tackling the $6 billion backlog.

Overdose deaths reach ‘epidemic proportions’ (Leaf-Chronicle) The state is a leader in the number of prescription painkillers per person despite new regulations. A record number of people died from opioid overdoses in 2014. At least 1,263 Tennesseans died last year from opioid overdoses, up 97 deaths from 2013 — a staggering statistic that points to growing abuse despite an array of measures to stem addiction. It’s an epidemic sweeping across the state, affecting people in both small towns and big cities.

Comptroller’s office completes state museum audit (News-Sentinel) An audit of the Tennessee State Museum has been completed and will be presented to members of the museum’s board of directors at a scheduled meeting in Memphis on Oct. 5, according to a spokesman for Comptroller Justin Wilson. The spokesman, John Dunn, said in a copy of the draft audit by the state comptroller’s office has been provided to the museum management, including Executive Director Lois Riggins-Ezzell, for a response to findings. In accord with auditing policies, he declined to provide any information on those findings in advance.

Trend breaker: Direct PAC donations were down in 2014 (News-Sentinel) Breaking a decade-old trend, Tennessee political action committees actually gave less money directly to political candidates last year than in the previous election year, according to the Registry of Election Finance’s official 2014 annual report, recently posted on the agency’s website. But at the same time, PAC “independent expenditures” — money spent prompting or attacking candidates without coordination with the individual campaign — increased substantially, the report says. Some figures from the 2014 annual report:

Jim Tracy road show: A 3-year window for legislators to ‘step up’ (News-Sentinel) From the Columbia Daily Herald: State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, hosted a hearing this week at Columbia State Community College for Maury County officials, stressing the need for the General Assembly to start taking steps in transportation tax reforms. According to projections based on current incoming funds, legislators will have about a three-year window to act before the Department of Transportation will be unable to fund new roads, Tracy said. “I think we are in a crucial stage,” Tracy said. “We are going to get to the point where we are not even going to get enough revenue just to do the maintenance.”

Lawmaker questions UT salaries in diversity programs (News-Sentinel) A Knoxville legislator is questioning the University of Tennessee’s annual spending of more than $4.7 million on salary and benefits for employees involved in diversity programs, contending both the total and some individual salaries are excessive and should be reviewed with an eye toward cuts. “If we could cut that $4.7 million by $1.5 million a year, that would be $15 million over 10 years,” said Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville. “That would be saving a lot of tuition dollars and a lot of taxpayer dollars” for other university needs.

Lamar Alexander: Don’t dump the filibuster (News-Sentinel) U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s message might have been familiar, but he was aiming at a different audience. The Maryville Republican went to the Senate floor last week to preach once again about the virtues of the filibuster and to try to stop a push by some lawmakers to nuke it. But this time, he wasn’t lecturing Democrats. He was scolding his own party. “Republicans who want to abolish the filibuster in the United States Senate are Republicans with short memories,” he began, launching into a nine-minute defense of the parliamentary stalling tactic, its long tradition in the Senate, its benefits in protecting the voice of the minority and the dangers that await any party looking to abolish it.

TNGOP had attack ad in Nashville mayor’s race (News-Sentinel) The Tennessee Republican Party, which had earlier avoided involvement in Nashville’s recent mayoral race, has acknowledged sponsoring attack advertising in the last days of the campaign and blames the Tennessee Democratic Party for its decision. The acknowledgment of an attack on Megan Barry, the winner, along with the previously disclosed Democratic attack on David Fox, the loser, apparently marks the first time the Tennessee parties have directly clashed in spending state-level advertising money in a local-level race.

Ranking the top 10 GOP candidates for president (Washington Post) The last time I ranked the 10 people most likely to wind up as the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, I had Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as the third-best bet to be the GOP standard bearer. That was Aug. 2. On Sept. 21, Walker dropped out of the race, registering as a literal asterisk in his final poll as a candidate. The rise and fall of Walker — he was an official candidate for only 70 days — is evidence of the massive fluidity in the race; GOP voters are still looking around, jumping on some candidates . . . only to jump off when they start to falter.

Council to review TVA’s natural resource activities (AP) The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Regional Resource Stewardship Council will meet Monday and Tuesday in Knoxville to review TVA’s natural resource activities and partnerships. The 20-member council will receive updates on TVA’s stewardship initiatives, floating houses, dam projects and encroachment management. The two-day meeting will be open to the public and held at TVA’s headquarters. The council will meet on Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT and on Tuesday from 8 to 11:45 a.m. A public comment session is scheduled at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

Should the Postal Service be sold to save it? (Washington Post) The U.S. Postal Service, which has been losing customers for almost a decade, is still struggling to right itself. Everyone understands its basic problem. The electronic age has pushed first-class mail into an unstoppable decline. To stay afloat, the post office needs to get its costs under control, by closing post offices, eliminating Saturday delivery, downsizing its workforce. To boost revenue, it could offer banking services and sell lots of stuff besides stamps. But with three Congresses in a row not passing legislation to help stabilize its finances, some lawmakers and policy experts have reached the consensus that it’s time for the government to sell the post office.

Alcoa to Split Into Two Companies (WSJ) Aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. said Monday that it will split into two publicly traded companies, joining the recent wave of companies looking to spur growth by breaking up. Shares of Alcoa gained 4.2% in premarket trading. Alcoa said its upstream company will include its bauxite, alumina, aluminum, casting and energy business. The other company will include its global rolled products, engineered products and solutions, and transportation and construction solutions businesses. The deal is expected to close in the second half of next year. Alcoa shareholders will own all shares outstanding of both companies.

2.1 million Audi vehicles have suspect software (AP) Volkswagen AG’s upmarket Audi brand says 2.1 million of its vehicles are among those with the engines affected by the emissions-rigging scandal. Audi said Monday that the engine in question was built into 1.6-liter and 2-liter turbo diesel models in the A1, A3, A4, A6, TT, Q3 and Q5 ranges, news agency dpa reported. The cars involved have engines in the “euro 5” emissions category; those with the newer “euro 6” engines aren’t affected by the emissions scandal.

Volkswagen launches new website providing diesel information (WRCB) Volkswagen has launched a new website in the wake of the emissions scandal with its diesel engines. The website has a message posted from the CEO of Volkswagen group of America as well as answers to frequently asked questions. The company could face billions in fines from the EPA for installing software on diesel engines designed to give better reading during emissions testing versus real world driving.

VW Scandal to Hurt Its Financing Arm (WSJ) Volkswagen AG faces higher financing costs and a strain on its ability to offer loans to boost sales amid an unfolding emissions scandal, which is rippling through all aspects of the auto maker’s business. Volkswagen disclosed last week as many as 11 million diesel cars contained software that U.S. authorities say allowed the company to dodge emissions standards. The cars could now be subject to a global recall. The company already has halted U.S. sales of the diesel-powered cars.

VW’s Pitch to Americans Relied on Fun and Fantasy (NY Times) Volkswagen’s big push in the United States revolved around making Americans love driving a diesel car again — a challenging task given the poor image diesel had endured since the 1980s. Its answer was a 2-liter, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that could run seemingly forever on a single tank while offering great acceleration and meeting even the most stringent environmental standards.

People Who Prove Broken Government Can Work (Governing) “Nothing today is politically feasible. Nothing,” writes Philip K. Howard in The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government. While his book veers into occasional hyperbole, its overall premise is sound: The proliferation of laws and regulations that attempt to spell out precisely what public officials must do in every conceivable situation makes it increasingly difficult for them to get anything done and coincidentally weakens their moral authority.

Eyes down, minds elsewhere, ‘deadwalkers’ are among us (Washington Post) You have seen the zombie-like creatures walking among us. In fact, you may be one of them, moseying along with your eyes fixated on that tiny screen that rests in the palm of your hand. Americans overwhelmingly think this is okay. It’s not. “It’s just really dangerous,” said Deborah Hersman, who heads the National Safety Council and is former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. “Everybody walking down the sidewalk either has their headphones on or is looking down at their phone. It’s a sad commentary on our society when you look at how distracted people are.”


The Workshop: A Closer Look at Public Privatization (UT Daily Beacon) Last month, we learned that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam had begun the process of privatizing the management of all state-owned facilities. This plan would include prisons, hospitals, state parks and colleges and universities. This isn’t the first time the Republican governor has pushed for privatization of publicly run institutions. He also privatized the management of several state office buildings through the management company Jones Lang LaSalle and the state motor pool with Enterprise.

Guest columnist: New Clean Power Plan hurts Tennessee’s minorities (Tennessean) With the Obama administration having released its so-called “Clean Power Plan,” much debate has focused on the supposed benefits of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions over the next 15 years. Lost amid the rhetoric, however, is the economic hardship it will impose on millions of working families — especially the 1.4 million blacks and Hispanics living in Tennessee. That’s the finding from a new study commissioned and released over the summer by my organization, the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

Guest columnist: Tennessee minorities will benefit from Clean Power Plan (Tennessean) For the past year, a team of Tennessee State University students and I have been investigating the air quality in and around the Cayce Place community as participants in an Environmental Protection Agency research project. Low-income and minority communities such as Cayce Place are often the hardest hit by the effects of air pollution and climate change.

Guest columnist: Protecting Outdoor Adventures In Tennessee and Beyond (Times-Free Press) Some of my earliest childhood memories involve being outside, rock climbing, canoeing or hiking with my family. Tied into a rope held by my father, I remember climbing the Chimneys in the wilderness of Linville Gorge, N.C. I remember multi-day canoe trips on Buffalo National River in Arkansas, fishing, swimming and sitting around a campfire. And I remember hiking through Joyce Kilmer Forest with my younger brother, awe-struck and inspired by the towering old-growth trees. These memories are shaped as much by what was absent in that place as what was there: In the outdoors, man-made noise, bustle, electric light, television and stress melted away.

Sunday, September 27

Haslam to speak on Israel trip (Times-Free Press) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will speak about his recent trip to Israel on Thursday at the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga. Haslam led the trip from Aug. 29 to Sept. 3, according to a news release. The trip focused on expanding relationships between Tennessee and Israeli business communities, encouraging bilateral trade and investment opportunities, the release stated. Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd and 18 business and research leaders accompanied Haslam, the release stated.

Tennessee Promise student: ‘You’ve got to grow up’ (Tennessean) Justin Short couldn’t sleep. After 3 a.m. on Aug. 24, a few hours before the Kingsport teenager started classes at Northeast State Community College, he hopped into his SUV and drove to Walmart in search of last-minute supplies and a distraction from the pit in his stomach. A month later, those nerves have faded, replaced by the steady drumbeat of stress familiar to anyone who’s ever pulled an all-nighter.

Former TN Promise student feels like she failed (Tennessean) Geraldine Hernandez’s alarm goes off at 3 a.m. She gets ready for work in the dark and starts her shift by 4:45. For 10 hours, she inspects used cell phones going down a conveyor belt in Smyrna. The Antioch teenager likes her boss and her coworkers, but the work is monotonous and a far cry from the days filled with classes, studying and extracurricular activities she enjoyed just a few months ago. It’s still hard for her to believe her life has changed so much since high school graduation in May.

Governor says VW reports nothing has changed in Chattanooga operations (Times-Free Press) As an emissions cheating scandal engulfs the German automaker Volkswagen, Tennessee officials are trying to soothe fears about the potential impact on the company’s Chattanooga factory, the crown jewel of the state’s economic development efforts of the last decade. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he’s been assured by officials at the Tennessee plant and Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg, Germany, headquarters that “nothing has changed” for their Tennessee operations.

As Volkswagen Pushed to Be No. 1, Ambitions Fueled a Scandal (NY Times) Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen’s chief executive, took the stage four years ago at the automaker’s new plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., and outlined a bold strategy. The company, he said, was in the midst of a plan to more than triple its sales in the United States in just a decade — setting it on a course to sweep by Toyota to become the world’s largest automaker. “By 2018, we want to take our group to the very top of the global car industry,” he told the two United States senators, the governor of Tennessee and the other dignitaries gathered for the opening of Volkswagen’s first American factory in decades.

Tennessee joins multi-state probe into VW emissions scandal (Nashville Business Journal) Tennessee has joined 27 other states in an investigation of Volkswagen over the automaker’s cheating on emissions testing. The Associated Press reports 28 state attorneys general, including Tennessee’s Herbert Slatery, will send subpoenas to the German automaker, which this week admitted it duped regulators and rigged software that impacted emissions testing on 482,000 diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. since 2008. The Michigan AG’s office said many states will investigate the matter through their consumer and environmental protection divisions, AP reports.

EPA to change diesel tests to thwart VW-like cheating (Times-Free Press) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it will launch sweeping changes to the way it tests for diesel emissions after seven years of being duped by clandestine software in Volkswagen cars. In a letter to car manufacturers, the EPA said it will add on-road testing to its regimen, “using driving cycles and conditions that may reasonably be expected to be encountered in normal operation and use, for the purposes of investigating a potential defeat device” similar to the one used by Volkswagen. The testing would be in addition to the standard emissions test cycles already in place, the EPA said.

What Tennessee Paid to Lure Lawbreaking Volkswagen to Chattanooga (Alternet) Taxpayers in the state with the nation’s 11th highest poverty rate have spent hundreds of millions of dollars luring the carmaker. The scandal over Volkwagen’s illegal scheme to sell diesel vehicles equipped with software designed to cheat U.S. air pollution limits is widening. The estimated number of affected vehicles was upped this week from almost 500,000 sold in the U.S. since 2008 to 11 million worldwide. Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department have launched investigations of the German automaker, and hearings are being planned by the U.S. House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee and the Tennessee legislature.

Man charged with TennCare fraud (Lebanon Democrat) A Wilson County man is charged with TennCare fraud for selling prescription drugs that were purchased using TennCare benefits. The Office of Inspector General, with the assistance of the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, announced the arrest of Anthony J. Austin, 52, of Lebanon on Wednesday. He is accused of using TennCare benefits to obtain a prescription for the painkiller Hydrocodone, then selling a portion of the drugs to an undercover informant.

Doctor Shopping could equal Lawyer Shopping (WGNS) A Cannon County woman is charged for the third time with doctor shopping for prescription drugs, using TennCare benefits as payment. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with the assistance of the Cannon County Sheriff’s Office, have announced the arrest of Taylor R. Cantrell, 24, of Readyville. She is charged in a Cannon County indictment with using TennCare to visit multiple physicians in a short period of time in order to obtain controlled substances, with TennCare paying for either the clinical visit or the prescriptions.

Comparison shows UT maintenance costs below outsourcing expectations (News-Sentinel) Work orders in hand, Ed McDaniel knocked on a dorm room door in Laurel Hall. “Hey man, I’m with lock and key. You have a problem with your deadbolt?” he asked the University of Tennessee student who answered the door. After a quick assessment, McDaniel found a few loose screws in the lock. “This one is an easy fix,” he said, fixing the lock and then testing it twice with a master key from the ring on his belt loop before leaving. As a UT locksmith, McDaniel is called when someone is locked out, when a key breaks or when a replacement key is needed on campus. And as buildings under construction near completion, the UT locksmiths will create all the locks and keys for those buildings as well.

Johnson City Press

Photo gallery: UT employee Ed McDaniel’s outsourcing concerns (News-Sentinel)

Analysis: Bill Haslam’s not-so-good summer (Commercial Appeal) Gov. Bill Haslam had a bad summer from a news, public relations and political perspective, and the tough times are carrying over to fall. He had barely left on a 15-city tour to lay the groundwork for the first gasoline tax increase since 1989 to pay for highway and transportation projects before GOP legislative leaders pronounced a tax hike all but dead on arrival for the 2016 legislative session. His surprise initiative to privatize the management and operation of all state-owned property — including state parks and college campuses — is raising questions and opposition statewide. Despite assurances from his commissioner of correction, the state prison system is in more trouble than it’s been in since it was released from federal court oversight in the 1990s.

Mystery still surrounds death of Inmate No. 81738 (Tennessean) Editor’s Note: This story about Elbert Thornton, a prisoner who died, contains graphic descriptions of his injuries. The Tennessean included only a small portion of information available about those injuries so readers could better understand the scope of the injuries at the time of his death. When Elbert Thornton died, he died a mystery. State prison records obtained by The Tennessean say the West Tennessee State Penitentiary inmate, No. 81738, died a natural death. An autopsy and sources tell a different story.

TN moving to use $30.4M in unspent fed water funds (AP) Tennessee environmental officials say they’ve taken steps to utilize millions of dollars of unspent funds from a federal aid program for improving the nation’s drinking water systems. A review by The Associated Press shows project delays, poor management by some states and structural problems have contributed to nearly $1.1 billion in congressional appropriations sitting unspent in Drinking Water State Revolving Fund accounts as of Aug. 1. The backlog is smaller than it once was, but federal data show that many states are not on track to meet a goal set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which wants any money dating back to 2013 to be spent by next year.

Millions Remain Unspent in Federal Water-System Loan Program (AP) The largest federal aid program for improving the nation’s drinking water systems has struggled to spend money in a timely fashion despite demand for assistance that far exceeds the amount available, a review by The Associated Press shows. Project delays, poor management by some states and structural problems have contributed to nearly $1.1 billion in congressional appropriations sitting unspent in Drinking Water State Revolving Fund accounts as of Aug. 1. In Tennessee, the state’s top-ranked project this year is a $684,000 plan to replace leaking water lines in Gainesboro, population 1,500. The state’s plan calls for the project to receive a 20-year loan in December, but Town Clerk Lisa Dodson said the only way the community would carry out the work is with a grant.

Tennessee takes steps to utilize federal water-system funds (AP) Tennessee environmental officials say they’ve taken steps to utilize millions of dollars of unspent funds from a federal aid program for improving the nation’s drinking water systems. A review by The Associated Press shows project delays, poor management by some states and structural problems have contributed to nearly $1.1 billion in congressional appropriations sitting unspent in Drinking Water State Revolving Fund accounts as of Aug. 1.

Land and Water Conservation Fund set to expire next week (Tennessean) A popular 50-year-old conservation program that has spent about $189 million to preserve natural resources in Tennessee will shut down next week unless Congress renews it. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses offshore oil and gas drilling royalties to buy and protect land for public use, has strong bipartisan support. Its expiration is one of many deadlines facing Congress at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.

Atlanta to Kentucky bike route to receive designation (Times-Free Press) A proposed network of recommended bike routes could run all the way from Atlanta to Kentucky, crossing Chattanooga and Knoxville. “We’re looking at hopefully 50,000 miles of routes eventually being designated nationwide and helping cyclists get to where they want to go for transportation or recreation,” said Saara Snow, travel initiatives coordinator for the Adventure Cycling Association, a national group pushing for the U.S. Bike Route system. “Hopefully the designation will help with bicycle improvements on the roads over the years, as well.”

Groundbreaking ceremony held for Wolf River Greenway (Memphis Business Journal) The new Wolf River Greenway is underway. The 36-mile paved path will stretch from the Mississippi River to Fayette County, with 20 miles of the greenway anticipated to open in Memphis by 2019. “We are doing much more than building a 12-foot wide hiking and biking path; we are building a corridor of opportunity,” said Keith Cole, executive director of the WRC. “Many of those opportunities we don’t even know exist today, but much like [what] we see in Overton Square, Crosstown Arts and now on South Main and Tennessee Brewery, we know this project will be catalytic in how we create opportunities we can only dream of.”

Ketron: State Senate against gas-tax hike (Daily News Journal) Gov. Bill Haslam has recently held public meetings with local officials to discuss how to finance unfunded road projects. Gov. Bill Haslam’s quest for revenues to fund $6 billion in overdue highway projects may face a road block in the Tennessee General Assembly.The Tennessee Senate, for example, will oppose any proposed gas tax hike in the coming election year, state Sen. Bill Ketron said Wednesday. The Murfreesboro lawmaker during a phone interview said he recently asked his fellow members of the Senate Republican Caucus about their positions on possible legislation to increase a gasoline tax that the Legislature set at 21.4 cents per gallon in 1989 to pay for road projects without going into debt then or now.

DesJarlais says Republican leadership needed new direction (News-Sentinel) A Republican Tennessee congressman who voted against returning John Boehner to the House speaker’s chair earlier this year said Friday he hopes Boehner’s successor will be a “consistent, conservative leader.” “I am certainly thankful for Speaker Boehner’s career of public service in the House of Representatives,” said U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais of South Pittsburg. “However, Tennessee’s Fourth District has long held the belief that Republican leadership needed a new direction.”

Scott DesJarlais on Boehner (Nashville Post) He comes not to praise the House speaker… “I am certainly thankful for Speaker Boehner’s career of public service in the House of Representatives. However, Tennessee’s Fourth District has long held the belief that Republican leadership needed a new direction. That is why in January I voted against John Boehner for Speaker of the House. Now we must come together as a conference to ensure we elect a consistent, conservative leader.”

Cooper on Boehner (Nashville Post) Rep. Cooper on the resignation of the Speaker: “Speaker Boehner is a very honorable man who always tries to do the right thing. He understands that compromise is in our job description,” Cooper said. “Unfortunately, he had a nearly impossible job leading an increasingly unreasonable and right-wing party that refuses to work with Democrats for the good of the nation.”

TN congressmen on Boehner resignation (News-Sentinel) News release statements from members of the Tennessee congressional delegation:

Black: Boehner resigned due to fractured House GOP Conference (Times-News) House Speaker John Boehner decided to resign because he did not want to stand in the way of a fractured House Republican Conference, U.S. Rep. Diane Black told about 300 people attending a Sullivan County GOP Reagan Day Dinner at the MeadowView Marriott Friday night. “There obviously have been difficult times for us and our conference … where we don’t all agree,” Black, a Gallatin Republican, explained.

Lamar opposes government shutdown (News-Sentinel) News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office: U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said “shutting down the government as a way of expressing opposition to Planned Parenthood or any other contentious issue is not the right thing to do.” Alexander’s full statement on the prospect of a federal government shutdown next week follows: “I voted yesterday to take the federal dollars now spent at four Planned Parenthood centers in Tennessee and spend those dollars instead at 173 Tennessee community health centers that provide services for women’s health. I will continue to vote that way. But shutting the government down as a way of expressing opposition to Planned Parenthood or any other contentious issue is not the right thing to do.

Is Karl Dean’s next move a run for governor? (Tennessean) With his time as mayor of Nashville behind him, the next big question for Karl Dean is whether he’ll make one more political run: statewide office. He’ll have a couple of years to decide whether he’s the guy who can turn around the fortunes of beleaguered Tennessee Democrats. Dean doesn’t shy away from his interest in running as a Democrat for either U.S. Senate or governor in 2018. The latter option, which would be an open race to replace Gov. Bill Haslam, is the more widely speculated of the two contests for Nashville’s outgoing mayor.

Hundreds stand in line for free care from St. Thomas Health (Tennessean) Keena Kleckley helped guide patients at Saint Thomas’ Medical Mission at Home from the screening area to where they would wait for medical, dental or vision checkups. Some patients came for all the checkups, while others came to the Municipal Auditorium for a particular service. There were about 100 people registered and an estimated 300 more in line at 8:45 a.m. Some camped out overnight; others arrived before the sun came up.

Vanderbilt doctors make ‘House’ calls to solve mysteries (Tennessean) There’s a group of doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who laugh and chuckle at the comparison to Dr. Gregory House of the hit television show “House.” The doctors don’t walk with a cane, and they hope they aren’t as cranky. (They’re not). But, like the lead character on the Fox show that ended in 2012, they do solve medical mysteries for patients who have gone through test after test trying to find answers for a nameless disease impacting their life.

Health Care Rx (Memphis Daily News) Church Health Center’s Antony Sheehan to keynote health care seminar. The debate, hand-wringing, expert studies and frustrations over what to do about fixing the nation’s health care system are certainly a testament to the scale of the problem and the elusiveness, so far, of solutions. One of the first steps to fixing a problem is, of course, properly defining it. And when it comes to health care, that tends to get done by focusing on things like cost and access. That, in turn, leads to support in some corners for the government to work to lower cost and promote wider access through legislative vehicles like the Affordable Care Act.

Health Care Heroes winners make a healthier Memphis (Memphis Business Journal) The winners of the 17th Memphis Business Journal Health Care Heroes Awards were gracious in accepting their awards, but they were also genuinely moved by the fact they were being honored. Claudia Haltom, founder of A Step Ahead Foundation, which won the award for Community Outreach, said the organization, which provides free, long-acting birth control, is always looking for collaborators.

Gateway, NorthCrest hospitals await word on satellite ER (Leaf-Chronicle) Gateway Medical Center wants to further spread its reach in the Montgomery County area with a satellite emergency facility near Exit 11. But it has significant competition from another regional hospital, NorthCrest Medical Center based in nearby Springfield, which has, like Gateway, applied with the state for a certificate of need for a satellite ER in the same vicinity. Officials for both hospitals agree: There’s room for only one of them to have an ER in the Sango area.

Evanoff: Catching up to Nashville (Commercial Appeal) Lots of Memphians are aware of the Nashville boom. Just this week Iron Horse Capital Management, founded in Memphis in 2009, moved its office 200 miles east. Going to Nashville is like going to another planet. A generation ago these cities were peers, but Nashville took off in such spectacular fashion Memphis probably never will catch up. Metropolitan Nashville has added 150,000 jobs in the last five years, while employment here still trails the level in 2000 by 11,000 jobs. No wonder major real estate developer Boyle Investment, which has been relatively quiet in its Memphis hometown, has committed to the $215 million Berry Farms development outside Nashville and the $90 million Capitol View residential project in the center city.


Frank Daniels: Tennessee should be proud of its Promise (Tennessean) I imagine that some days Gov. Bill Haslam, who has the financial security to forego his pay, has to wonder, “Now, why did I want to be governor?” Like the soon-to-be-former Speaker of the House John Boehner, Haslam’s wonderment is most often spurred by “friends” in his own party who have regularly dissed the governor’s plans to improve education, increase access to health insurance and provide funding for highway construction. When those friends go home at the ends of their term they will regale their families with tales of stuff that didn’t get done. Riveting stories for their grandchildren I am sure.

Tom Humphrey: Top contenders for spending the state’s surplus (News-Sentinel) Tennessee legislators typically have had far more contentious arguments over government spending in fat years than in lean years and, if that tradition holds true, things seem already headed toward a fiscal-fat fight in next year’s session. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, Tennessee tax collections exceeded estimates used when the 2014-2015 budget was adopted by $605.7 million. Back in April, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration saw some of that surplus coming and put in a budget amendment, duly adopted by the Legislature, that spent a sizeable chuck. The biggest item was $120 million for a new state museum.

Guest columnist: Tennessee prisons in trouble, but they can be reformed (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey disagree on the seriousness of prison problems. The real problem: Tennessee holds entirely too many prisoners. Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) operated at 100.3 percent bed capacity. In 2013 Tennessee held a record number of 28,521 prisoners and still climbing.

Editorial: VW must work hard to regain public’s trust (News-Sentinel) Volkswagen’s admitted rigging of emissions controls on diesel models sold in the United States is deeply disturbing, not least for the thousands of Tennesseans who depend on the German automaker for their livelihoods. The scandal has blown billions off VW’s market value, yanked the company’s CEO out of his job and could end up costing VW up to $18 billion in civil penalties alone. The U.S. Environmental Protection agency alleges VW used a computer program to fool emissions testing equipment. In America, nearly a half-million cars — the Audi A3 as well as VW models Golf, Jetta, Beetle and Passat — were equipped to trick inspections.

Editorial: Why do drug companies charge so much? Because they can. (Washington Post) In 1953, a new drug was released by Burroughs Wellcome, a pharmaceutical company based in London. Pyrimethamine, as the compound was named, was originally intended to fight malaria, after the microorganisms that cause the disease developed resistance to earlier therapies. The drug was used against malaria for several decades, often in combination with other compounds. It’s mostly used now to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can be life-threatening in people whose immune systems are suppressed, for example, by HIV/AIDS or cancer.

Editorial: Memphis’ Next Goal: Doctor Town, USA (Memphis Daily News) Memphis can at times be a study in great contrasts – shades of light and darkness. Nowhere is that contrast as stark as it is when it comes to medicine and health. The cutting-edge technology and research present in Memphis’ medical and health care community stand out against the backdrop of an abundant need for basic health services that are beyond the reach of so many who live here.

Frank Munger: ORNL, Alcoa trade staff members in DOE pilot program (News-Sentinel) Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Alcoa Inc. are going to get to know each other a little better as part of a new U.S. Department of Energy pilot program called Technologist in Residence. The intent of the program is to improve working relationships between the DOE’s national labs and private-sector companies and gain more “high-impact” research through the collaborations. As part of the program, there will be personnel exchanges, with a couple of ORNL staffers working at Alcoa and at least one Alcoa staff member spending time at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.

Friday, September 25

More Tennessee Colleges Pursue Adults Who Never Finished Their Degrees (WPLN) Colleges and universities across Tennessee are trying to make it easier for adults with some college credit to go back to school. Nearly 40 public and private schools met this week to discuss a $1.1 million program called Tennessee Reconnect + Complete, part of the state’s ongoing plan to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with degrees. Part of Reconnect + Complete is a massive marketing campaign, targeting an estimated 110,000 adults — over age 25 — who’ve completed at least half of their college credits but never finished. The state will start airing TV ads and sending out mailers about adult education early next year.

Tennessee Promise Open House set Oct. 1 at Motlow (Elk Valley Times) Motlow College’s Fayetteville Center will open its computer labs from 5 until 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct 1, for area high school seniors to sign up for Tennessee Promise and fill out their Motlow applications. Students and parents should RSVP to Open House Thursday by calling the Fayetteville Center at 931-438-0028 and pressing 0. The event is designed to encourage students to enroll in Tennessee Promise, Governor Bill Haslam’s program to provide two years of community college or technical school tuition.

Alcoa cuts ribbon on automotive division expansion (WATE) Alcoa says it has completed an expansion at its Tennessee facility dedicated to supplying aluminum sheet for the automotive industry. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Thursday with Gov. Bill Haslam and other officials in attendance. The $300 million project began shipments earlier this month to customers that include Ford, FIat and General Motors. It’s Alcoa’s second major automotive expansion in North America backed by long-term customer contracts.

Alcoa Celebrates Auto Body Sheet Expansion In Tennessee (AP) Aluminum producer Alcoa is celebrating the $300 million expansion of its automotive body sheet facility in eastern Tennessee. Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said in a statement Thursday that the expansion at the plant in Alcoa, Tennessee, stems from increased demand from manufacturers like Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors. “Automakers are demanding lighter, stronger materials that improve the performance of their vehicles and Alcoa is at the forefront of capturing that demand,” Kleinfeld said.

Alcoa completes $300 million expansion in Tennessee (Times-Free Press) Alcoa has completed a $300 million expansion of its Tennessee facility to supply more aluminum sheet to the automotive industry. The plant will provide aluminum sheet to automakers that include Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors. The expansion is projected to add about 200 full-time jobs. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and other state and local officials celebrated the expansion with a ribbon-cutting event Thursday.

Governor Bill Haslam Speaks On Trip To Israel At Jewish Cultural Center (Chattanoogan) The Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga announced Thursday that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam will visit the Jewish Cultural Center, 5461 North Terrace Road, on Thursday, Oct. 1, at 3:45 p.m. to talk about his recent visit to Israel. There is no cost to attend this event but RSVPs are strongly suggested as space is limited. RSVP to 493-0270 ext. 10 or

Flags To Fly At Half-Staff Sun. In Honor Of Soldier’s Sacrifice (Greeneville Sun) The service and sacrifice of 1st Lieutenant Alexander Bonnyman, Jr was recognized this week as his remains return to Tennessee after he gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Gov. Bill Haslam has declared a day of mourning and ordered flags at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Sunday in honor of Bonnyman, according to a recent news release. Bonnyman will be buried at the Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery at 5315 Kingston Pike in Knoxville at 12:30 p.m. that day.

Tenn. leaders try to allay fears about impact of VW scandal (AP) The Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga has long been touted as the crown jewel of Tennessee’s economic development efforts over the last decade. Now, state officials are trying to sooth fears about the potential impact on the factory as an emissions cheating scandal engulfs the German automaker. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said through a spokesman that his administration has “been assured by Volkswagen that they are not going anywhere and will continue to grow in Chattanooga.”

TN leaders try to allay fears about VW scandal impact (Tennessean) As an emissions cheating scandal engulfs the German automaker Volkswagen, Tennessee officials are trying to soothe fears about the potential impact on the company’s Chattanooga factory, the crown jewel of the state’s economic development efforts of the last decade. “We have been assured by Volkswagen that they are not going anywhere and will continue to grow in Chattanooga,” Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said through a spokesman. “But they have to address this issue.”

Nashville Firm Piles On VW With Its Own Class-Action Suit (WPLN) A Nashville law firm has filed the region’s first class-action suit against Volkswagen for duping air quality regulators. The attorneys hope to represent Tennessee VW owners in any litigation. The race to the courthouse actually began Friday, when the Environmental Protection Agency revealed Volkswagen programmed its diesel cars to cheat emissions tests. One class-action suit was filed in California mere hours after the news broke. The personal injury lawyer told Reuters he could move quickly because it was so easy to find a plaintiff — a fellow lawyer.

Volkswagen sued by Chattanooga area residents (Times-Free Press) Car values plummeted for at least seven area people because Volkswagen knowingly installed “defeat devices” to get around environmental standards, according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday by a Chattanooga law firm. The suit requests an unspecified amount of damages from Volkswagen of America, claiming the seven drivers had no idea the corporation was shortchanging their property by rendering it illegal. “If the plaintiffs and class members had known the true facts about the affected models,” wrote the Patrick, Beard, Schulman and Jacoway law firm, “they would not have purchased their vehicles.”

Former Davidson County judge files class-action suit against Volkswagen ( Kurtz lead plaintiff in claims resulting from automaker’s installation of ‘defeat device’. A former Davidson County judge will be the lead plaintiff in a class-action against Volkswagen filed Thursday. Walter Kurtz, who served as a circuit judge between 1982 and 2013, filed the lawsuit, claiming the automaker’s intentional installation of a so-called defeat device on the engines and emissions system of several diesel-powered models constituted unjust enrichment, fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

What the VW emissions impact means (WRCB)The Volkswagen cheating scandal grows wider every day. Researchers have already determined the rigged VW engines can produce anywhere from 10 to 40 times legal emissions levels. Channel 3 take a closer look at what that means. Every time you press the gas, your gasoline or diesel car emits nitrogen oxides, more commonly referred to as ‘NOx.’ “The diesel engine, the combustion takes place under high pressure and temperature. And so that produces a lot of NOx,” says Dr. Ignatius Fomunung.

Class Action Lawsuits Against Volkswagen are Piling Up (WDEF) Owners of Volkswagen diesel vehicles are headed to court. The emissions cheating scandal has owners worried they’ll never recover the value of their car. And class action lawsuits are popping up around the country. Volkswagen, traditionally one of the most respected brands in the world–is preparing for the worst storm to ever hit the 78 year old company. Following on the heels of the resignation of the CEO, now attorneys are launching a barrage of class action lawsuits,

Knox woman gets 15 years for TennCare fraud (News-Sentinel) A Knox County woman arrested four times for TennCare fraud involving prescription drugs has been sentenced to 15 years in state custody. The state Office of Inspector General on Thursday announced Nancy Elaine Horsley, 47, of Corryton was sentenced to 12 years in prison for three Knox County cases and three years for one White County case. In all four arrests, she was charged with obtaining the painkillers hydrocodone and codeine by doctor shopping, with the clinical visits being paid for by TennCare. Horsley is the fourth person in the history of the OIG to be charged four times with doctor shopping for drugs, using TennCare as payment.

We’re not getting fatter, but we’re still overweight (Times-Free Press) If there’s a morsel of good news in a new report on obesity in the U.S., it’s that we’re not getting any fatter. But there is still plenty of bad news — more than 30 percent of all Americans are overweight, and Southerners are heftier than residents of any other region. The number of Tennesseans who are overweight actually declined slightly, from 33.7 percent in 2013 to 31.2 percent in 2014. The Volunteer State had the 14th worst rate in the U.S. But trouble appears to be looming: 20.5 percent of Tennessee children aged 10-17 are overweight, the fifth worst rate in the nation.

Hearing Saturday for new Montgomery Bell park trail (Tennessean) A public hearing Saturday morning could go a long way toward determining if a new paved, ADA-compliant trail is created at Montgomery Bell State Park. Visitors and staff as well as members of a support group for Dickson County’s nearly 4,000-acre state park have for years asked about and pushed for another trail in the popular park, according to the park ranger spearheading a grant application for the trail, Kristen Deaton.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park preparing for another possible government shutdown (WATE) With the possibility of another government shutdown happening almost exactly two years after the last one, the National Park Service is making plans in case they have to close during one of their busiest times of year. “We’re taking steps to plan in case there is a lack of appropriated funds and we’ve began that process of planning how we would execute and orderly shutdown,” said park spokeswoman Dana Soehn. It is an all too familiar story to have a possible government shutdown looming on the horizon.

Lake disappears, past reappears at Chilhowee Dam (WBIR) Engineers at Chilhowee Dam are dropping the reservoir’s water level 40 feet to inspect the dam for seepage. The disappearing lake is providing a peek at the past. Old roads, bridges, and other infrastructure are now visible from the days before the area was flooded for the sake of hydroelectric power in 1957. As of now, Brookfield Smoky Mountain Hydropower has drained 20 feet of water from the reservoir. The full drawdown should be complete in around three weeks if crews maintain the current pace of lowering the lake by one foot per day.

See ancient history at Old Stone Fort State Park (Johnson City Press) Old Stone Fort State Archeological Park preserves a 2,000-year-old American Indian ceremonial site on a 50-acre swath between the Little Duck and Duck rivers in Middle Tennessee, well southeast of Nashville. We may never know what was the exact purpose of this site, enclosed by earth-and-stone walls that connect to riverside bluffs. But one can imagine that American Indians appreciated the beauty of the area as much as we do today. In what is now the state park, the Duck and Little Duck drop off Highland Rim Plateau into the Nashville Basin, their waters pouring forth over big falls beside steep bluffs before meeting at the southern end of the park.

Tims Ford State Park to celebrate National Public Lands Day this weekend (Herald-Chronicle) Tims Ford State Park invites everyone to help celebrate National Public Lands Day this weekend. The Tennessee Valley Authority is urging the public to volunteer their services on Saturday to help care for our nation’s public lands. Recreational opportunities are available on the more than 290,000 acres of public lands and waters that TVA manages across its seven-state service area. Philip Hylen, Tims Ford State Park Ranger II, said, “We invite the public to come out and take ownership and pride in their own parks and see what their tax dollars can do for the community.”

Kentucky Next In Line for Online Voter Registration (Lexington Herald-Leader) Kentuckians will be able to register online in time to vote in next year’s presidential elections, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said Tuesday. Grimes, the state’s chief election official, also said online registration will allow Kentucky voters to change their information, such as political party affiliation, on their own computers. Now, Kentuckians may register to vote or change voting information by mail or in person using voter registration cards, which can be downloaded and printed, or can be picked up at local county clerks’ offices. The cards can be mailed or returned in person to the address listed on the form. The online registration system should be available late this year or early next year, Grimes said.

Broadband Inches Toward Utility Status (Government Technology) Broadband is becoming a utility one step at a time. A White House report released last month declared broadband a necessity for Americans and recommended four actions for the federal government to execute in the next 18 months. The 40-page report (PDF) was based on five months of research conducted by the Broadband Opportunity Council (BOC), which is chaired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Commerce. It recommended that the government:

UTK Big Orange Bus stops in Jackson (Jackson Sun) Students in white and orange cheered and chanted as Jimmy Cheek, chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, stepped off the Big Orange Bus Thursday. The Big Orange Bus Tour is an initiative of UTK to travel across the state, visiting seven high schools. The University School of Jackson was one stop on the tour, but Cheek said the school is reaching out to much of West Tennessee. “We’ve got three people stationed in West Tennessee because of the importance of West Tennessee to the University of Tennessee Knoxville,” Cheek said after a presentation to USJ students. “We want everybody out here to understand the importance of the Tennessee Volunteers.”

UT conduct code rewrite delayed; state rep offers critique (News-Sentinel) State Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, is among critics of a new student code of conduct that’s in the works at the University of Tennessee, according to the News Sentinel. The student code of conduct outlines expectations and the process to adjudicate violations. Changes like eliminating indefinite suspension as a sanction, adding medical amnesty to encourage students to ask for help and others are suggested. It’s a total overhaul from the current code that’s been in place for decades with only minor tweaks, said Vince Carilli, vice chancellor for student life.

State reps share strategies in painkiller plague (Times-News) A region staggered by abuse of prescription medications over the last several years is preparing to fight back as a team, or at least gave every impression of doing so during the opening round of the Appalachian Opioid Abuse Summit at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise on Wednesday. About 100 representatives of six states — Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia and Maryland — gathered at the college to share their own strategies to combat a problem described in epidemic proportions and brainstorm ways to better coordinate efforts across borders.

Hundreds register to vote (Jackson Sun) Several hundred more people across Jackson will be eligible to cast their ballots in the March presidential primaries after they registered to vote Thursday. Tennessee’s Secretary of State Tre Hargett visited Union University, Lane College and Jackson State Community College Thursday as part of his sweep across the state for National Voter Registration Month. Hargett will wrap up his tour today, and when he is done he will have visited 17 colleges and universities getting people registered to vote.

Tennessee lawmakers weigh in on Pope Francis’ address to Congress (Times-Free Press) Tennessee Republican lawmakers are weighing in on Pope Francis’ historic address today to a joint session of Congress with U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., calling his message “one of hope and unity.” Corker said he “was particularly pleased to hear his message about the fight to eliminate modern slavery. As Pope Francis conveyed, ending modern slavery will not come easy. It will require cooperation from people of all faiths, backgrounds, and nationality. But together, we can end it.”

Cigna network expanded to include UT (News-Sentinel) Cigna Corp. and University of Tennessee Medical center announced Thursday that they are expanding the Cigna network of providers to include more than 800 professionals associated with UT. Effective Jan. 1, UT Medical Center and more than 800 doctors and health care professionals who are part of the University Physicians’ Association Inc. (UPA), will also be part of the Cigna LocalPlus network. This means that people who choose either a Cigna Open Access Plus or LocalPlu network plan for 2016 during open enrollment with their employers will be able to have services from UT Medical Center and UPA physicians that are included in their benefits plan will be covered at the in-network benefit level when the plan takes effect in January.

Audit finds slipshod cyber-security at (AP) The government stored sensitive personal information on millions of health insurance customers in a computer system with basic security flaws, according to an official audit that uncovered slipshod practices. The Obama administration said it acted quickly to fix all the problems identified by the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office. But the episode raises questions about the government’s ability to protect a vast new database at a time when cyberattacks are becoming bolder.

Knoxville doctors frustrated with shortages of common drugs (WATE) Have you had trouble getting some of your prescriptions filled lately? There is a big shortage of some familiar drugs. One Knoxville doctor said practicing medicine in the U.S. right now is like being in a second or third world country. Dr. Jay Hammett is always on the go at the East Towne Urgent Care and Occupational Health Clinic. His days are filled with patients needing quick care. Dr. Hammett is among a growing number of frustrated physicians who can’t get medications to treat some of the most basic ailments because of a serious drug shortage. One is basic saline solution used in IV drips.

Cherokee Health gets grant to expand services (News-Sentinel) Cherokee Health Systems has received a $419,345 grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to increase access to preventive and primary care in East Tennessee. “We plan to add an entire primary-care team to our Center City office in Knoxville (2018 Western Avenue),” said Bob Franko, Cherokee Health’s vice president for marketing. “This will include a total of six full-time-equivalent staff including a primary care physician, a behavioral health consultant, nursing staff and community health coordinators.”

Hospital systems host community round table session (Johnson City Press) Representatives of Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System hosted a community health round table meeting Thursday night in Erwin to gather the community’s input on how to address the region’s most serious health challenges. In preparation for their creation of 10-year plan to meet region’s health care needs, MSHA and Wellmont asked the round table participants to tell them “What can you do to improve health in the community?”

Helen Ross McNabb Center hosts 12th Annual Recovery Awareness Fair (WATE) The Helen Ross McNabb Center is hosting a Recovery Awareness Fair Friday to promote awareness concerning mental health, substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. The fair will take place in Knoxville’s Market Square from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on September 25. The emphasis is the importance of seeking physical and mental wellness each day throughout the recovery process. Prevention, treatment and recovery information will be available.

MHA board keeps Lipscomb suspended as letter from accuser surfaces (Commercial Appeal) Robert Lipscomb kept his housing authority job and his pension in separate votes Thursday, as his lawyers revealed a disputed letter of apology from a man accusing him of sexual misconduct. On Thursday, the Memphis Housing Authority board voted to maintain Lipscomb’s status as suspended with pay from his job as MHA executive director. Also on Thursday, the city’s pension board granted Lipscomb a lump-sum payment of $466,364.67.

Lipscomb Attorneys Fire Back (Memphis Flyer) Robert Lipscomb knows his accuser, Bobby Harris, but he never had a sexual relationship with him when he was a minor. Lipscomb met Harris “many years ago” but not through his duties as director of the Memphis Housing Authority. Lipscomb never offered to help Harris or his family obtain housing. Lipscomb never gave Harris MHA money. Lipscomb never called Harris from the MHA office and “does not know why” Harris called him there. These statements are all according to Lipscomb’s attorney, Ricky Wilkins, who fought back for his client during this morning’s meeting of the MHA. The defensive statements were in a letter dated today from Wilkins to Lori Patterson, an attorney for Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, and Berkowitz.

Memphis is running up its credit cards (Memphis Business Journal) Three months ago, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis warned the Memphis area about its growing credit card debt. It doesn’t look like the region listened. In its new Burgundy Book survey on the regional economy, the Fed shows that per capita credit card balances in the Memphis area post the largest increase in more than six years at a rate of 3.6 percent. That news is tempered by the mortgage delinquency rates, which fell significantly. Commercial loan officers reported brisk demand for loans, improving on last year’s pace.

Green businesses honored (Leaf-Chronicle) When all members of an organization are moving in the same direction environmentally speaking, it actually can be very “easy to be green.” Clarksville-Montgomery County was putting the color green front and center on Thursday, from the night lights on the R.J. Corman railroad bridge over the Cumberland River downtown, to the banquet hall of the Wilma Rudolph Event Center, where environmental leaders in the local business community gathered in the same room for an evening of focusing on saving energy, “reducing, reusing and recycling,” and honoring those who choose to lead the effort by example.

From Banner to bankruptcy (TN Ledger) IRS accepts $175K of $13.5M owed in final disposition of Simpkins case. More than 17 years after the Nashville Banner ceased publication, another chapter in the story – perhaps the last – has been written in Winchester’s Eastern District bankruptcy court with the final disposition of Irby C. Simpkins Jr.’s Chapter 7 case. Simpkins, 71, who with business partner Brownlee O. Currey Jr. owned the city’s 122-year-old afternoon newspaper before selling it for closure to Gannett in 1998, had filed for bankruptcy as an individual in November of 2012. He listed assets of $1.675 million and liabilities of $13.5 million.

Double-Spacers, You’re Dating Yourself (Memphis Daily News) There’s something you may be doing every day that’s making you look old. And you probably have no idea what it is. It’s not your clothes, your hairstyle or the AOL email address you’re using (although those aren’t helping either). What you’re doing is subtle, and worst of all, it’s what you were taught in school. How could someone teach you to do something incorrectly? Times have changed, possibly without you.


Tennessee prisons in trouble, but they can be reformed (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey disagree on the seriousness of prison problems. The real problem: Tennessee holds entirely too many prisoners. Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) operated at 100.3 percent bed capacity. In 2013 Tennessee held a record number of 28,521 prisoners and still climbing. TDOC has a serious crisis of guards resigning and inability to recruit more because prisons are crowded, the job is dangerous and the pay is low.

Greg Johnson: CHA’s management fails Tenn. Members (News-Sentinel) Starting a new business is hard. Starting two new businesses, even harder. Particularly in the fraught field of health insurance. Jerry W. Burgess is the founding chief executive officer of Community Health Alliance, the Knoxville-based Consumer Oriented and Operated Plan for Tennessee established under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Burgess is also the founding CEO of Consumers’ Choice Health Plan, South Carolina’s ACA-established CO-OP.

Thursday, September 24

State’s 2-year institutions host Scholarship Saturday (AP) Tennessee’s community and technical colleges are encouraging high school seniors to sign up for the governor’s free tuition program this Saturday. Called Scholarship Saturday, the colleges are opening their doors for area seniors to sign up for Tennessee Promise and fill out their college applications. Tennessee Promise offers eligible high school seniors free tuition to a two-year community or technical college. Out of 58,000 applicants, 15,800 students have enrolled in the program this year.

Second group of students opt in for reverse transfer degrees (News-Sentinel) An email appeared in Laurie Wyatt’s inbox this summer saying she might have earned an associate’s degree. “I looked at it and thought, that kind of looks too good to be true,” said the now University of Tennessee senior. The email was from Tennessee Reverse Transfer, which helps students who transferred from community college to a four-year school to retroactively receive an associate’s degree by transferring credits back.

International Education Week attracts UT students to overseas study (News-Sentinel) As clusters of University of Tennessee students arrived at the study abroad fair, Noah Rost welcomed them and repeated the same message. “The fair is on three floors, so make sure you check out all three floors,” the associate director of the Center for International Education called out. “There are different opportunities on each one.” Filled with fliers, poster boards and booths, the fair gave students a chance to ask questions and learn about the various types of travel. It’s also part of the annual International Education Week, with events focused on global education.

Employees, students protest possible job outsourcing (East Tennessean) ETSU employees, students and local activists rallied on Tuesday in response to Gov. Bill Haslam’s request for more information on outsourcing management jobs across the State of Tennessee. Displaying messages such as ‘Tennessee is Not For Sale’, the protesters gathered support and acknowledgement from community members as they passed by. “On Aug. 11, the state issued a request for information for companies who use facilities management to look into outsourcing the management and maintenance of all state owned real estate…It turns out that this has been a plan in the making for a long time,” said Carrier Waters, rally organizer.

Report: Tennessee’s tax code is kind to the 1 percent (Nashville Business Journal) Tennessee’s tax code treats the 1 percent pretty well. That’s according to a new report from personal finance website WalletHub, which recently pulled together a ranking of the most, and least, fair state tax systems. The Volunteer State comes in at No. 10 in WalletHub’s ranking of states where the top 1 percent are the most under taxed. One finds several states without personal income taxes topping this particular list of the WalletHub report. Wyoming, Nevada and Florida lead the way among states most friendly to its wealthiest residents.

New state park coming to county (Cookeville Herald-Citizen) A new state park is coming to Putnam County. Park Manager Bill Summers of Burgess Falls State Park announced at last night’s Putnam County Commission meeting there are future plans for the new Window Cliffs State Natural Area with the purchase of 100 acres adjacent to Burgess Falls. The area is known for several waterfalls and natural rock formations known as window cliffs, which are limestones with archs created by erosion, making them resemble a window or bridge. There are apparently only a few areas in Tennessee with these natural formations. Summers also detailed a four-mile walking trail that is planned for the area, as well as bridges and a parking lot.

Visit, volunteer at Tenn. state parks (Jackson Sun) In recognition of National Public Lands Day, Tennessee State Parks and Natural Areas invite the public to take part in hikes, interpretive programs and volunteer activities across the state on Saturday. This year’s theme is Helping Hands for America’s Land. Each of the 56 Tennessee State Parks will have scheduled hikes and volunteer opportunities. Opportunities include litter cleanups, trail maintenance, hikes and even canoe floats. Events are being held at different times throughout the day and some parks are having multiple events.

Public Lands Day looks like a walk in the park (Tennessean) The fall season gets a lot of us thinking about hiking, and Saturday is a great time to start. It is National Public Lands Day, and all 56 of our Tennessee State Parks will celebrate an array of volunteer opportunities and ranger-led hikes and special events. I particularly love a good ranger-led hike, since it almost ensures a positive experience for someone like me who is directionally challenged and a bit of a scaredy-cat about getting lost and things such as copperheads and rattlesnakes that might be lurking in the parks.

FCS Acquires Land in Savage Gulf (Grundy Herald) A small but significant holding of private land across from Stone Door at Savage Gulf is now in the hands of the Friends of South Cumberland (FSC). The nonprofit conservation organization recently closed on the 40-acre Jones Tract that includes 2,000 feet of bluff line immediately across and in view from the Stone Door overlook. Stone Door, one of the most visited Tennessee State Park attractions, is also a cornerstone of ecotourism in Grundy County. The FSC announced that a “Land Preservation Celebration” marking the Jones Tract acquisition will be held at Stone Door and the historic Beersheba Hotel on October 11.

Collection bins offer safe disposal of old medicine (Times-Gazette) Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, in partnership with local and state law enforcement agencies, announced this week the growing success of the permanent collection bins for Tennessee residents to properly dispose of used or unwanted medication. Today’s announcement brings the total of 143 permanent collection bins statewide. Locally, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department is a prescription drug takeback location, according to TDEC. Along with several local agencies, other state departments that partnered with TDEC were the Tennessee Department of Health, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Safety and Homeland Security, and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Drug Take-Back Day is Saturday (Hartsville Vidette) The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is encouraging all Tennesseans to do their part in properly disposing of their unused medications on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26. People in Trousdale County can bring medications to the disposal box located inside City Hall on Broadway during Saturday’s event from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will be on hand. Trousdale’s bin is one of 143 permanent bins statewide, according to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Curtis Johnson named to Tennessee State Capitol Commission (Clarksville Online) Tennessee State Representative – District 68Nashville, TN – Tennessee Representative Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) has been named to serve on the State Capitol Commission by Tennessee Speaker of the House of Representatives, Beth Harwell. The State Capitol Commission (SCC) was created by the Legislature in 1986 to formulate and develop a plenary master plan and program for the adaptive restoration and preservation of the State Capitol, including the building and contiguous grounds.

Waiting game for expanding Tennessee health coverage (Lebanon Democrat) Almost 300,000 Tennesseans would have access to health coverage if Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan is implemented – but not everyone is happy with the Republican governor’s support for expanding coverage. Last week, the state attorney general determined the plan must have the approval of the General Assembly. The setback doesn’t sit well with Michelle Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center. She said the governor’s Insure Tennessee plan represents a bipartisan effort to help the state’s working poor.

TN lawyers receive OK to store secrets in cloud (Tennessean) Tennessee lawyers can store confidential documents and information in the cloud, according to an ethics board’s opinion issued this month. The opinion says attorneys can put information on the third-party, remote digital storage systems as long as they take “reasonable care” to make sure that information stays confidential and is protected from being hacked. That language is essential as growing numbers of people and industries rely on cloud storage, said Daniel Gervais, a Vanderbilt University Law School professor with a specialty in intellectual property law.

Tennessee blasts ‘unprecedented’ FCC broadband ruling as unconstitutional in appeals court (Times-Free Press) Tennessee accused the Federal Communications Commission of unlawfully violating state sovereignty in an appeal filed last week, alleging that the federal government is attempting to arbitrarily rewrite state law and vest itself with new powers not granted by the Constitution. The appeal was filed in response to an FCC ruling that struck down the state’s geographic limits on city-owned utilities’ broadband offerings.

Public Outcry Kills Tennessee Bill to Charge for Public Records (Memphis Daily News) People of every political stripe across Tennessee are rising in protest to legislation allowing government to charge fees for inspection of public records. Fisk University student Justin Jones said such a financial imposition would place an “undue burden” on his fellow collegians seeking information from public records as part of research papers and other assignments.

CEO Winterkorn quits; brought VW’s plant to Chattanooga (News-Sentinel) The escalating Volkswagen diesel-emissions scandal has claimed its first high-profile victim. Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn quit on Wednesday, saying he was “not aware” of any wrongdoing on his part, but “stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group.” The wrongdoing stands out from other auto scandals for its boldness — years of cheating and lying to hide pollution from diesel cars — and for clarity of the company’s guilt, from the moment the investigation became public on Friday.

How the Volkswagen investigation could impact Chattanooga (WRCB) With Volkswagen leading as the world’s largest automaker how could this cheating scandal affect Chattanooga’s economy? When Channel 3 sat down with University of Tennessee Chattanooga Economics Professor Bruce Hutchison, he didn’t hold back his opinion. He says regardless of what Volkswagen decides to do moving forward, there will be some type of negative impact on our city. “There’s no way other than to see it’s a negative impact on Chattanooga,” he said. Hutchison says the Volkswagen investigation will no doubt affect the people living in Chattanooga. If Volkswagen suffers as a company, so will its employees.

Worries Build For VW’s Chattanooga Plant And Workforce (WPLN) As an emissions cheating scandal turns into a full-blown crisis for Volkswagen, worry is building for the automaker’s future in Tennessee. VW is one of the most heavily subsidized industrial companies in the state. Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant builds the Passat sedan, which hasn’t been selling well already. The one bright spot had been the high-efficiency diesel, until it came to light the company was rigging them to cheat on emissions testing. The union representing a majority of employees declined to comment. Justin King, who worked for VW until July, says the company will find a way forward, but he’s concerned for his former colleagues.

Volkswagen Takes First Step in Recovering Consumer Confidence (WDEF) Volkswagen took the first step today toward winning back the confidence of consumers. The C-E-O resigned, but many questions remain about the future of the diesel-powered vehicles–and the long-term impact of the scandal on Chattanooga. Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has stepped down, falling to public pressure after the giant automaker admitted to cheating on U.S. emissions tests.

After Volkswagen Revelation, Auto Emissions Tests Come Under Global Scrutiny (NY Times) In the United States, automakers conduct their own emissions tests and submit the results to the government. In Europe, automakers pick who conducts the tests and where they are done. And these two regulatory systems are considered the world’s gold standards. Questions about the wisdom of allowing automakers so much sway in how air pollution standards are enforced grew on Wednesday after the resignation of Volkswagen’s chief executive, ollowing the company’s diesel emissions cheating scandal.

VW’s Customers Feel Confusion, Remorse (WSJ) Deborah Scott went shopping for a new car in 2010 and came back home with a diesel station wagon made by Volkswagen AG . Fuel efficiency, low emissions and a peppy engine won her heart. Now, she finds herself suffering from a case of buyer’s remorse. “I feel very confused,” said the 61-year-old retired nurse practitioner from Chattanooga, Tenn. Less than a week ago, the Environmental Protection Agency said the German maker of her car lied about its diesel-emissions performance and is demanding a fix on nearly 500,000 affected vehicles on U.S. roads. That leaves owners, such as Ms. Scott, wondering how that will affect performance, resale value and compliance with clean-air standards.

VW workers ‘trying to make light of situation, but we just don’t know’ (Times-Free Press) Things were outwardly calm Wednesday morning inside Das Café in the Volkswagen Academy at Chattanooga’s VW assembly plant. It was soon after VW CEO Martin Winterkorn announced his resignation over Volkswagen’s “diesel deception” at a news conference in Germany. Workers eating lunch in the airy cafeteria said Volkswagen hadn’t informed them of the latest development. But in the smartphone era, they heard the news. “We’re trying to make light of the situation — but we just don’t know,” said one employee who didn’t want his name used. Another plant worker who wanted to remain anonymous said, “I’ve been here five years, and it’s been great. I’d like to see everything bounce back.”

Volkswagen emissions scandal concerns some Knoxville car dealers and drivers (WATE) Local car dealers and some drivers are concerned the Volkswagen emissions scandal could cause them to have problems. The company was caught then later admitted to rigging diesel emissions to pass tests. Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned on Wednesday. The owner of Metro Motors, Joe Zitawi, said the diesel powered Volkswagen cars are known to be fuel efficient and top sellers at the dealership. However, the one 2009 diesel he has on his lot could be tough sell after VW admitted to using illegal software to cheat on emissions standards tests.

Tennessee lawmakers plan hearings on VW emissions scandal (News-Sentinel) Lawmakers in Tennessee plan to hold hearings over whether the Volkswagen emissions scandal could imperil the nearly $900 million in state and local incentives that have been directed toward the German automaker’s lone U.S. plant in Chattanooga. Volkswagen has been reeling from revelations that it used secret software to thwart diesel smog tests on nearly 500,000 cars in the United States. The company has since admitted that the software was installed on some 11 million vehicles, and CEO Martin Winterkorn has said he’s “deeply sorry” for tarnishing the VW brand.

Tennessee Lawmakers Call For Hearing Amid Volkswagen Scandal (WTVF) The fallout surrounding Volkswagen shows no sign of slowing down. The company has admitted to falsifying emissions tests for a handful of its diesel models. Days after the Environmental Protection Agency made the company’s wrongdoing public CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned. “They’re going to have to address this issue,” Gov. Bill Haslam said to reporters Monday.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn Comments on Volkswagen Investigation (WDEF) Volkswagen faces investigations in both Tennessee and the U.S. Congress. State Senator Bo Watson told us on Tuesday that he wants a finance committee to review the state’s financial deals with Volkswagen in light of the emissions scandal. And Congress is also looking into it. House Energy Committee Vice Chair Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee says they are gathering facts about the TDI diesel engines and should hold hearings in the future.

Kelsey says use surplus to repeal Hall tax (Nashville Post) From the inbox, Brian Kelsey says the state should use its “over-collection” to repeal the Hall Tax. Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) today filed legislation which would repeal the Hall income tax next year. The Hall tax is a 6% tax on interest and dividends. Previously, Sen. Kelsey proposed phasing out the tax over three years, but this amendment to the original bill would abolish the tax next year.

Senator pushes for transport tax reform (Daily Herald) State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, hosted a hearing this week at Columbia State Community College for Maury County officials, stressing the need for the General Assembly to start taking steps in transportation tax reforms. According to projections based on current incoming funds, legislators will have about a three-year window to act before the Department of Transportation will be unable to fund new roads, Tracy said. “I think we are in a crucial stage,” Tracy said. “We are going to get to the point where we are not even going to get enough revenue just to do the maintenance.”

Alexander questions U.S. Department of Education official on its guidance (Times-News) Below is a video of an exchange from the Sept. 23 Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing between U.S. Sen. Alexander and Amy McIntosh of the Department of Education. It regards the department’s use of guidance, and it was provided by Alexander’s office. In his questions to McIntosh, Alexander referred to a 2014 hearing where he asked Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education, whether the department expects colleges and universities to comply with its Title IX guidance and Lhamon replied, “We do.”

TVA completes safety testing of new nuclear reactor (AP) The Tennessee Valley Authority has completed a weeklong safety test of the Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor, which is expected to be the nation’s first new nuclear generating plant of the 21st century. According to the utility, the test verified that safety systems designed to shut down the reactor work properly, even when relying on a backup system of diesel generators. Watts Bar Unit 2 was begun in the 1970s but mothballed for years. When complete, it is expected to produce 1,150 megawatts of electricity – enough to meet the needs of 650,000 homes.

TVA bond issue saves $10 million in annual interest expenses (News-Sentinel) The Tennessee Valley Authority issued 50-year bonds this week at the lowest rate for such long-term debt in history, saving the federal utility an estimated $10 million a year in interest expenses and stretching out the average length of TVA’s bonded debt by about 18 months. “This is a record low coupon ever achieved on a 50-year debt for a corporation or a government,” TVA Vice President and Treasurer Tammy Wilson said Tuesday. “We’ve been watching the market for some time while telling the TVA story to banks and investors looking for the right timing for our issues.”

ORNL debuts its big change to energy efficiency, AMIE (WBIR) A car and a home that share a power source could be the way of the future. East Tennessee researchers are creating that very technology. The Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy project, or AMIE, shows a home and a car that can power each other using electricity and a natural gas hybrid powered car. “Two years ago, if you ever heard of a 3D-printed car, you’d say that’s crazy. Now, that’s a reality,” said Department of Energy Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson on Wednesday.

ORNL works with industry on energy-sharing prototypes (News-Sentinel) The future was parked on Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s front lawn Wednesday, and it created quite a stir. A nine-month research project, demonstrating a wealth of energy-efficient technologies and a creative approach to energy planning, was on display for the opening session of Industry Day at ORNL. The prototype — known as AMIE, or additive manufacturing integrated energy — links a building and a vehicle, both constructed of polymer materials using large-scale 3-D printers, which share energy sources via lab-developed wireless connections, and make powerful things possible.

Fracking Firms That Drove Oil Boom Struggle to Survive (WSJ) A wave of bankruptcies and closures is sweeping across the oil patch, with dozens of hydraulic-fracturing companies at risk, industry experts say. Most of the companies that help oil-and-gas explorers drill and frack wells are small, privately owned and just a few years old. They are part of a flood of new entrants in the energy business—one that is drying up as oil prices languish below $50 a barrel. One of the latest casualties is Pro-Stim Services. Launched in 2011 with backing from Turnbridge Capital LLC, a private-equity firm, the company did work for oil-and-gas producers eager to coax more fuel out of the ground in places like Texas and Louisiana.

Study: Nashville economy grew by $16M a day in 2014 (Nashville Business Journal) Nashville was a $106.7 billion economy in 2014, according to new stats published by the U.S. Commerce Department. The region ranks as the 34th largest metro economy in the nation, in the 90th percentile among the 381 metros tracked by the department. That’s the exact same ranking Nashville posted last year, which was the first time its gross domestic product surpassed the $100 billion threshold. The Nashville region ranks as the 34th largest metro economy in the nation. From 2013 to 2014, the 14-county Nashville metro area grew its GDP by $5.7 billion — an average daily gain of almost $16 million.

Chattanooga is lowest cost city for business startups (Times-Free Press) Chattanooga is the least- cost city in America to start a business, according to a study released Wednesday by the online personal finance website SmartAsset. With relatively cheap office space, utilities and wages — combined with the least expensive gigabit-per-second Internet hookup connections in the country — Chattanooga boasts the lowest overall startup costs for businesses of any U.S. city. The estimated first-year costs of starting and running a business in Chattanooga are about half what it costs in Silicon Valley, where most of the century’s best-known startups have been birthed.

Crowded, Crumbling Roads Take Center Stage in Louisiana Governor’s Race (Governing) After years of growing traffic and strapped road budgets, Louisiana voters will get a chance next month to put a governor in office who cares about fixing the state’s roads. But getting the leading candidates — three Republicans and one Democrat — to spell out their plans for fixing the problem has proven tricky. The reason? The budget. All four candidates have been attempting to tap voter frustration about bad roads, particularly in the vote-rich Baton Rouge area. The gubernatorial campaign even started with a debate on transportation. But the state’s budget is in bad shape and voters are wary of any tax increases. As a result, most of the campaign promises so far have been vague or small.


Editorial: Green Illusions Fell an Auto CEO (WSJ) What puzzled a business columnist five years ago remains puzzling today. Martin Winterkorn, the now-embattled Volkswagen chief, grandly pronounced a goal to make VW the world’s biggest car maker by sales. Shouldn’t a business manager care about whether capital is productively deployed to maximize returns, not about generating sales volume for its own sake? Mr. Winterkorn might have noticed, for one thing, that the sales crown had been associated with catastrophe for its two most recent wearers, Toyota and GM. Mr. Winterkorn would need to find a bigger place for VW in the U.S. market—and bowdlerized a car that had earned a small but devoted fandom in the U.S., the Jetta, cheapening it into a Corolla wannabe.

Greg Johnson: Tourism, traffic go together for Smokies, Sevier County (News-Sentinel) Traffic crept so slowly through Pigeon Forge just after sunrise last Saturday, the lonely cyclist had to keep pulling his brakes, frustrating his average speed and his calorie burn. Finally, I veered left and kept the left shoulder with its clear path toward Gatlinburg. A rod run was in town. Old cars made like new lined the Parkway, and folks shook off sleep to cruise and gaze. The wide sidewalks were no option — some chose to stroll and stare. Tourists were in town doing what My Lovely encourages them to do when we’re stuck in traffic together: “Spend money! Spend money!”

Wednesday, September 23

Battle continues over Forrest statue at Capitol (Tennessean) State officials took another step Tuesday toward deciding the fate of the controversial bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest that resides in the Tennessee State Capitol. A committee specially created to look at what monuments and statues should be displayed at the statehouse agreed on a draft report establishing criteria for what works may appear at the Capitol.

New Rules Don’t Clarify Whether Forrest’s Bust Will Stay In Tennessee Capitol (WPLN) A subcommittee has approved new rules for deciding what historical markers and statues should be displayed at the state Capitol. But it isn’t clear that they’ll lead to the removal of a controversial bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.The State Capitol Commission’s specially-appointed Artifacts Subcommittee voted Tuesday morning to give commissioners almost complete discretion over memorials and where to place them. But the rules don’t spell out who should be honored — only that works should “reflect the diverse people of Tennessee and their values.”

Under new rules, controversial bust of KKK leader can stay in Capitol (WKRN) New guidelines as to which artifacts can be displayed at the Capitol are on their way to be reviewed by the State Capitol Commission. As it stands, the controversial bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest does not violate any of the rules and can stay. The controversy over the bust started in July after the Charleston church shootings. State representative G.A. Hardaway said keeping Forrest’s bust on display was wrong because he represents a dark time in American history. Forrest was a Confederate Army General and also a leader of the Ku Klux Klan and active in the slave trade. Even Governor Haslam said Forrest’s bust wouldn’t be his choice for a display.

Proposed rules on Tenn. Capitol artifacts sent to full panel (AP) The full Tennessee State Capitol Commission has been sent proposed rules for which artifacts should be displayed in and around the building. The move follows calls by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and lawmakers of both parties for a re-evaluation of a Capitol bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader in the aftermath of the killing of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in June. The Artifacts Subcommittee on Tuesday advanced the draft criteria, which don’t make any specific mention of Forrest. Three people spoke out against any effort to dial back Confederate artifacts shown on the Capitol grounds, calling it an effort to erase the state’s history.

David Smith Named Gov. Haslam’s Communications Director (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has named David Smith as his communications director. Smith has been the Republican governor’s press secretary since he took office in 2011, and was Haslam’s spokesman during the 2010 governor’s race. He succeeds Alexia Poe, who left in August to become a private communications consultant. In his new position, Smith will be in charge of both internal and external communications for the Haslam administration. The Cabinet-level job pays $110,000 per year. Smith, 36, is a graduate of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and previously worked as a staff writer for National Journal’s Hotline and as a reporter for the San Mateo Daily News and The San Francisco Examiner.

People over profits: Protestors oppose Haslam’s privatization efforts (Johnson City Press) A month after Gov. Bill Haslam announced his consideration of privatizing of all state building management services, East Tennessee State University faculty, staff, students and supporters took action. Lining the intersection of West State of Franklin Road and University Parkway, demonstrators carried signs opposing the possible outsourcing and collected supportive honks from passing cars Tuesday afternoon. But the demonstration also collected something else: A lot of questions.

ECD: No excuses with Megasite (Jackson Sun) Randy Boyd stood in front of a standing room only crowd Tuesday morning just minutes after the state’s Economic and Community Development team showed community stakeholders the marketing plan for the Memphis Regional Megasite. The state has a history of grabbing major manufacturing plants like Nissan in Middle Tennessee and Volkswagen in East Tennessee. Monday, leaders were shown an entire plan for “Mastered in Tennessee” in hopes that a similarly sized company would come to West Tennessee.

Tennessee launches marketing to lure manufacturers to Memphis Regional Megasite (Commercial Appeal) The Memphis Regional Megasite was hailed on Tuesday as the most eligible manufacturing site in North America, a magic bean that could grow into the next Smyrna or Chattanooga. Tennessee and Memphis officials spared no praise as Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd arrived in Memphis to unveil the marketing campaign for the megasite. It was Mark Herbison, Greater Memphis Chamber senior vice president of economic development, who likened the 4,100-acre site in Haywood County to Jack and the Beanstalk’s skyward reaching bean.

State’s 2-year institutions host Scholarship Saturday (AP) Tennessee’s community and technical colleges are encouraging high school seniors to sign up for the governor’s free tuition program this Saturday. Called Scholarship Saturday, the colleges are opening their doors for area seniors to sign up for Tennessee Promise and fill out their college applications. Tennessee Promise offers eligible high school seniors free tuition to a two-year community or technical college. Out of 58,000 applicants, 15,800 students have enrolled in the program this year.

Pellissippi State is largest community college in state for first time (News-Sentinel) For the first time, Pellissippi State Community College has the largest community college enrollment — 10,325 students — in the state. Despite steady growth for years, Anthony Wise, president of Pellissippi, said this year’s 2.2 percent growth from fall 2014 is largely fueled by Tennessee Promise, which is increasing students going to community college right from high school. “We’re getting younger as a campus,” Wise said.

Chancellor says enrollment up at University of Tennessee (Times-Free Press) Enrollment at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville is up this year, and school administrators say their focus is fixed on recruiting the “best and brightest” students and being innovative in how they attract first-year and transfer students. These are topics Chancellor Jimmy Cheek is touting this week as he crisscrosses the state on the school’s inaugural admissions bus tour. “[UT] has the largest student population we’ve had in a long period of time,” Cheek told the Times Free Press during a stop in Hamilton County, which is the fifth largest county supplier of students to the university.

TCAT-Elizabethton to hold Tennessee Promise signup (Johnson City Press) The state’s new Tennessee Promise scholarships are a great deal for the high school seniors who will be graduating as part of the Class of 2016. Students can learn more about this program on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the campus of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Elizabethton at 426 Tenn. Highway 91 N. in the the Watauga Industrial Park and across from Elizabethton Municipal Airport. Saturday’s event is part of a statewide effort to spread knowledge about the program. Refreshments will be served.

MTSU Makes Name Change and Receives Scholarship Gift (WTVF) Officials with Middle Tennessee State University announced a big name change at an event Tuesday, and received a major gift as well. The event was held at the BMI terrace, and school officials announced that they will be changing the name of their College of Mass Communications to the College of Media and Entertainment. The change comes as technology and media demands shift in the digital world. “This rebooted college of media and entertainment will strive to give students the skills and insights they need to serve audiences on multiple platforms that means learn to communicate effectively through words, through audio and through video,” said MTSU Dean Ken Paulson.–328764221.html

Fisk’s interim president wants to improve finances (Tennessean) A day after the surprise announcement that H. James Williams had resigned as president of Fisk University, his temporary replacement was at work reassuring the community that all was well. In one of his first actions as interim president, Frank L. Sims sent a letter to parents telling them that the administrative shake-up would not affect education at the school. Sims repeatedly emphasized that point Tuesday in an exclusive interview with The Tennessean.

State’s rights come to a head in Tennessee’s case against municipal broadband (Nashville Business Journal) As part of a suit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the city of Chattanooga’s utility company, the state of Tennessee is arguing it alone has a “right to create and define” its own political subdivisions. On Friday, the state of Tennessee filed a brief in its ongoing suit against the FCC and the Electric Power Board (EPB) of Chattanooga.”There are vast areas of Tennessee, surrounding EPB’s electric service territory, where citizens and businesses have little or no broadband Internet connectivity,” EPB wrote in a press release.

Tennessee farmers seeing mixed results with industrial hemp pilot program (WATE) Some farmers have seen mixed results with the state’s industrial hemp pilot program. According to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, this is the first time in more than 70 years that farmers can grow hemp legally. Elias Rasmussen is one of 50 farmers involved in the pilot program. He’s not your average farmer and says there were moments he thought he was going to lose everything.

AG: No guns at private schools, school events at church (Tennessean) People can’t bring guns to a church, religious entity or private school — even if it is private property — if that property is being used for a school event, according to a new opinion from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery. “Under the (law), the statute pertains to property being operated or while in use by any school. The statute does not exclude property of religious institutions or any particular type of school, including parochial schools, from its scope,” Slatery writes.

Tennessee Gun Laws Leave Permit Holders Confused (WTVF) Tennessee’s gun laws have left many permit owners with a lot of questions and concerns about where they can bring their guns. Tuesday, another opinion from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery came into the picture and may not have helped the situation. It said, people can’t bring guns to a church, any religious entity or a private school, if that property is being used for a school event. This comes after another opinion on the guns-in-parks law that said, local municipalities can’t ban guns at large events or venues, like Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville, if those venues are owned by the city or county.

AG: No guns at school events (unless school is home, too) (News-Sentinel) Attorney General Herbert Slatery has a new opinion on carrying guns on property being used for school purposes. Basically, there’s a general ban — but it doesn’t apply to a residence being used for home schooling. Below is the short version of questions posed by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, and the opinion answers. Question 1: If a church or other religious entity operates any form of school on church grounds or allows other entities to use church property for school purposes (e.g., classrooms, gym and/or sporting fields), is the property “school property” for the purposes of Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1309, which makes it a criminal offense to possess or carry weapons, including firearms, on school property?

Emissions testers approving VW vehicles that pass inspection until directed to do otherwise (Times-Free Press) While a whirlwind of criticism and global fallout engulfed Volkswagen on Tuesday, practical questions surfaced, like how to treat the company’s newer-model diesel cars — the ones that cheat emissions tests — during mandatory local testing. And there’s no word from state or federal government officials on how to handle the issue. Stephen Foster, Tennessee program manager at state-contracted emissions test firm Opus Inspection, said Tuesday there had been no directive from the state to treat affected diesel VWs and Audis any different than before news of the rigged emissions programs.

Chattanooga leaders react to Volkswagen investigation (WRCB) It’s no secret that thousands of people in Chattanooga depend on Volkswagen to make a living. VW said its invested $1 billion in this Chattanooga facility and currently have more than 2,000 full-time employees.Now many state and county leaders are using words like “concerned” and “troubling” when talking about VW’s future. “Obviously we were extremely disappointed to hear about the Volkswagen incident,” said Hamilton Co. Mayor Jim Coppinger.

Legislators React to Volkswagen Scandal (WDEF) Volkswagen says that the number of diesel vehicles affected worldwide by the emissions-testing device has now reached 11-million. Five hundred thousand of those are in the United States. Tennessee lawmakers are expressing their disappointment and anger with the giant auto-maker. Rep. Gerald McCormick ® Chattanooga, House Majority Leader “Certainly, this kind of behavior ..its just inexcusable…it makes you concerned about the management of the company.”

Tarnished: State Senate, U.S. House panels plan hearings on VW’s diesel deception (Times-Free Press) Tennessee lawmakers want to know whether fallout from Volkswagen’s emissions-testing scandal may cause nearly $900 million in state and local government incentives for the German automaker’s Chattanooga plant to disappear like smoke. At the urging of state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and Senate Finance Chairman Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, agreed Tuesday to schedule a hearing on revelations the company sought to evade U.S. emissions standards for pollution on some 500,000 vehicles nationwide.Calling the reports “troubling,” Watson said in his letter to McNally that he wants a meeting “without delay” to hear testimony from company and state officials.

VW troubles escalate; TN legislature to investigate (News-Sentinel) As Volkswagen’s troubles escalated internationally on Tuesday, state Sen. Bo Watson called for a legislative committee hearing “at the earliest possible date” to consider possible impact within Tennessee, where lawmakers honored Gov. Bill Haslam’s request for $165 million in incentive payments to Volkswagen earlier this year. “While all of the relevant facts may remain unreported at this time, I am very concerned as to the financial impact these violatons could present to the State of Tennessee,” Watson wrote Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally in a letter distributed to media Tuesday.

Volkswagen’s woes continue to mount over diesel issue (News-Sentinel) Volkswagen’s woes continued to grow Tuesday over revelations late last week that the German automaker intentionally violated U.S. clean-air rules with some of its diesel-powered cars sold in the United States. Besides an EPA investigation that could lead to $18 billion in civil penalties, Volkswagen also faces possible criminal charges. The U.S. Justice Department said it’s also opening a criminal probe into the issue, in which Volkswagen programmed the onboard computers to trick government emissions tests.The revelations that Volkswagen cheated on the U.S. emissions testing have dismayed Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and other officials who helped the automaker get the state and local incentives for the Chattanooga VW plant

TN Senate leader requests hearing on VW cheating issues (Tennessean) A leader in the Tennessee Senate is asking a fellow lawmaker to call a hearing to look at how cheating revelations regarding Volkswagen may affect the state. Senate Speaker Pro Tem Bo Watson, R-Hixson, notes the German automaker’s significant investment in Tennessee as a reason he wants Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, to schedule a hearing.

Tennessee legislators argue for nullification (Tennessean) Last week, among the reported 400 attendees at a “Religious Freedom Rally” in front of the state Capitol sponsored by the Tennessee Pastor Network, were about 40 state legislators. The rally featured several topical speakers — Rafael Cruz, father of GOP presidential aspirant Sen. Ted Cruz; Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary; and Joe Davis, whose fame comes via his wife, Kim, the Kentucky county clerk — and a state legislator, Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma.

Same-Sex Marriage Supporters Plan To Take Campaign Outside Tennessee Capitol (WPLN) Supporters of same-sex marriage are gearing up for another battle with state lawmakers, but they’re planning on taking this fight far from the state Capitol. The focal point is a proposal, House Bill 1412, called the Tennessee Natural Marriage Protection Act. It says the state will recognize marriages only between a man and a woman, and will cover the court costs of any public official who refuses to uphold this summer’s Supreme Court ruling.

Bill Frist to launch a new health initiative ( Nashville Business Journal) Former U.S. Senator Bill Frist is preparing to launch a new health initiative focused on improving wellness in Davidson County. NashvilleHealth, as the program will be called, is still in development, with a formal announcement expected early next year, according to Nashville Post.The initiative will start with three pilot programs focused on smoking, hypertension and child health, Caroline Young, NashvilleHealth executive director and former president of the Nashville Health Care Council, told the Post.Frist is also the co-founder of locally based Aspire Health, a palliative care company.

Businesses Pursue Massive Middle East Nuclear Project (WSJ) An international business consortium is in talks with Middle East governments to build as many of 40 nuclear reactors in countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, according to participants in the discussions. The group, which includes the Dutch conglomerate Mammoet, foresees producing the nuclear fuel for the reactors and their parts in plants to be constructed in Virginia and Tennessee. Members of the group are seeking to partner with either the Russian or Chinese governments, which would be responsible for taking the spent fuel from the reactors and disposing of it.

Solid Waste Board Applies For TDEC Grant To Purchase Landfill Equipment (Greeneville Sun) A grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation could help buy a new brush grinder for the local landfill. In its meeting last week, the Greeneville-Greene County Regional Solid Waste Planning Board voted to submit an application to TDEC for Waste Reduction grant funds. If awarded, the funds would provide for 70 percent of the cost of a new brush grinder, used at the Greeneville-Greene County Transfer Station and Demolition Landfill.

Franklin to pursue Highway 96 trail grant (Tennessean) Franklin city staff members are set to pursue grant money to jump-start the construction of a multiuse trail along Highway 96 that would give kids headed to the schools and parks in the area a long-needed safer passage. At a work session Tuesday evening, Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen members said they’d like to see the grant application process move ahead for the trail, which would run alongside the major roadway from Vera Valley Road, near Freedom Middle School, to Ninth Avenue North.


Charlie Daniels Cartoon: VW (News-Sentinel)

Editorial: Legislature can’t nullify same-sex marriage ruling (News-Sentinel) A pair of Tennessee Republican lawmakers are marching down the same path to legal defeat trod so many times before —nullification. State Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and state Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, believe the Tennessee Legislature has the authority to override the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down same-sex marriage bans nationwide. Last week the Wilson County lawmakers filed the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act,” which asserts that Obergefell v. Hodges “is unauthoritative, void and of no effect.” The Legislature, of course, has no such power. The Supreme Court has the final say in how the nation’s laws and its Constitution are interpreted. Through the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court decisions have the force of federal law.

Tuesday, September 22

Haslam in Brentwood: No magic transportation fix (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam told Williamson County officials gathered for a transportation summit in Brentwood on Monday morning that there’s no magic to getting the state’s roughly $6 billion backlog of road projects funded. Revenues will have to go up. “All (possible transportation solutions) will mean asking for more money than we’re getting now,” he said.

Growth speeds up, traffic slows down; what’s the answer? (Brentwood Home Page) Williamson County is expected to double in size in the next 20 years, leading to a population of more than 400,000 residents and creating a need for improvements to public transportation. County Mayor Rogers Anderson hosted a summit in Brentwood on Monday to address county transportation needs in response to the accelerated growth. The ‘Williamson Moves’ summit was held at the Tractor Supply Headquarters at 7:30 a.m. and gave attendees the opportunity to interact with guest speakers from peer communities and local businesses, as well as state and national featured guests. Gov. Bill Haslam opened the summit and voiced his concerns of taking on debt to pay for new infrastructure in the face of limited federal funding.–cms-22991#.VgE7LJc73ws

Haslam ‘concerned’ about Volkswagen cheating claims (Tennessean) Revelations that Volkswagen, a leading employer in Tennessee, may have intentionally cheated on carbon emissions testing for hundreds of thousands of vehicles is concerning, said Gov. Bill Haslam. “Obviously we’re concerned about that,” Haslam said when asked about the allegations Monday. The Environmental Protection Agency accuses the German automaker of installing a device in 482,000 vehicles that makes it appear as though the vehicles meet emission standards when tested. The actual emissions levels change when the vehicle is not being tested, as reported by USA TODAY and other media outlets.

Haslam hosts summit to discuss improving graduation rates (AP) Gov. Bill Haslam has convened higher education and workforce leaders to discuss his initiative to improve graduation rates in Tennessee. Launched two years ago, the aim of “Drive to 55” is to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with a degree or certificate beyond high school from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025 in order to help improve overall job qualifications and attract employers to the state. On Monday, Haslam held a roundtable in Nashville to hear from those leaders, who were also given updates on programs the governor created to help reach his postsecondary goal.

Haslam eyes new challenges at higher ed summit (Leaf-Chronicle) Dozens of college leaders converged Monday in Nashville to confront a wide array of challenges facing the state as Tennessee Promise and other initiatives pump thousands of students onto campus. Gov. Bill Haslam turned to leaders repeatedly with open-ended questions about tuition, dropout rates and adult education. The three-hour Drive to 55 Summit borrowed its name from the initiative Haslam launched two years ago to increase the number of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate.

Haslam says ‘Drive to 55’ college graduation program succeeding but more work needed (Times-Free Press) Gov. Bill Haslam, state lawmakers, higher education officials and business leaders on Monday celebrated strides the state has made in its “Drive to 55” initiative to boost the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees. But they said far more work remains to be done. “There’s a lot of reason for optimism and encouragement,” Haslam said at the end of the summit and discussion. “Our task is to take this back and see if there are specific things that we can do differently.” He later told reporters, “you can see there are big challenges in front of us.”

Leaders highlight K-12 schools’ role in ‘Drive to 55′ (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Emphasizing that successful careers take root in the early grades, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said the state is reshaping K-12 education to align with Tennessee’s 3-year-old initiative to boost postsecondary graduation rates. Among ongoing improvements: higher academic standards, a new assessment that will better gauge whether students are college- or career-ready, and an updated track to tie high school career technical clusters to Tennessee’s workforce needs. “This has reorganized our vision around really what K-12 education is about: success after graduation,” McQueen said Monday at a Drive to 55 Summit in Nashville.

Tennessee Delivers on Community College Promise (WKU Radio) Community colleges across Tennessee are starting the academic year with a higher-than-usual number of students. That’s because of a first-year program called Tennessee Promise, an initiative that provides new high school graduates two years of tuition-free attendance at community and technical colleges in the state. Richard Briley is one of the new faces at Nashville State Community College. The future business major says that without Tennessee Promise he would have probably enrolled at a four-year school and taken on a lot of debt. “I’d probably be going to TSU, Tennessee State University, but I would have to take out a loan,” explained Briley.

TN Promise mentors needed (Advocate & Democrat) Monroe County is seeking community members to volunteer their time to mentor high school seniors who are taking part in the Tennessee Promise program. One of the cornerstone initiatives to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55, the Tennessee Promise is an opportunity for all graduating high school seniors—regardless of socioeconomic status or academic performance—to obtain a TCAT certificate, diploma or associate’s degree free of tuition and fees.

Haslam says state is fulfilling legal funding obligation to Shelby County Schools (Chalkbeat Tennessee) In his first public comments on Shelby County Schools’ funding lawsuit against the state, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday that he believes the state is fulfilling its legal obligation to Tennessee’s largest school system. However, he added that the issue of adequate school funding remains a concern. The Shelby County Board of Education filed a suit last month claiming that Tennessee isn’t adequately funding its Memphis schools, especially for students who are minorities, have disabilities and live in extreme poverty. That’s different from a separate lawsuit filed last March by school boards in Hamilton County and six other southeast Tennessee districts, which says state education funding in general — not just for specific populations — is flawed.

State begins review of science standards in schools (Commercial Appeal) The State Board of Education has announced a public review of its proposed new benchmarks for teaching and learning science in grades 3-8, launching a second review of Tennessee education standards within a year. The state is inviting any Tennessee resident to go online and review the standards, which were developed over the last year by a panel of science educators from across the state, and to suggest changes, if needed, for implementation in Tennessee classrooms in 2018. The standards specify what students are expected to know and do by the end of a given grade or course.

Bill Haslam paying $612K to 3 outsourcing consultants (Tennessean) Three part-time outsourcing consultants stand to be paid $612,000 annually by the state even as Republican Gov. Bill Haslam insists that no decision has been made about privatization efforts. The top paid contractor is Mike Ledyard, who gives his title as director of facilities management outsourcing. He receives $222 an hour for an average of four full days a week, or about $369,000 per year.

State spending $493K to renovate floor in office tower (News-Sentinel) While Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration moves toward outsourcing management and operations of all state-owned buildings, parks, prisons and college campuses with a goal of saving taxpayers money, it’s also spending $493,000 to renovate a single floor in a state office tower. That project will knock down walls, install a more open office layout and upgrade restrooms on the 27th floor of the Tennessee Tower state office building across the street from the State Capitol. The floor houses the headquarters of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, and was where the governor himself worked for eight months in 2012 during a major renovation of the Capitol.

How Is Free Community College Affecting Enrollment At Four-Year Universities? (WPLN) The number of Tennesseans enrolling in community college immediately after high school jumped 14 percent this fall, according to the state. That’s due in large part to the first year of Tennessee Promise, which made community college free for graduating high schoolers. But on the other side of the higher education equation were four-year universities. They, of course, were not offering free tuition to wide swaths of students, and they were nervous about competing for students this year.

Community Colleges and TCATS host scholarship event (Leaf-Chronicle) As part of the statewide effort, Nashville State Community College, and all of its six campuses, is hosting Scholarship Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 Noon on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. Nashville State will provide use of computers and staff assistance for area high school seniors to sign up for Tennessee Promise. Students will also receive help with filling out their Nashville State college applications. The event is designed to encourage students to enroll in Tennessee Promise, Governor Bill Haslam’s program to provide two years of community college or technical school tuition.

What Tennessee colleges have the highest average starting salary for graduates? (Times-Free Press) According to a study by Smart- Asset, the Tennessee colleges with the highest average starting salary for graduates last year were: 1. Vanderbilt University — $52,100 2. Tennessee Technological University — $48,500 3. Tennessee State University — $48,100 4. Christian Brothers University — $44,500 5. University of Phoenix-Chattanooga — $44,000 State average is $40,835.

Why States’ Increasing Reliance on Sales Taxes Is Risky (Governing) Recessions are scary for governments. But what can be scarier, as far as some fiscal policy analysts are concerned, is what governments do when the revenues start coming back. In the case of the most recent recession, tax reform has been a hot topic in legislatures — but that has the Urban Institute’s Kim Rueben worried. She supports simplifying the tax code, but too often, she said at a recent event hosted by the institute, “tax reform is also used as a synonym for tax cuts. And that’s a problem.” As states have recovered from the recession, seven cut individual income taxes (and increased sales taxes). Others, on the other hand, increased their sales tax after income tax cuts resulted in too little revenue.

Fisk University President Resigns, Interim Selected (WTVF) Officials at Fisk University announced the resignation of President H. James Williams. “We have accepted Dr. Williams’ resignation and thank him for his part in the advancements of Fisk in recent years,” said Barbara Landers Bowles, Chairperson of the Board. Dr. Williams had many accomplishments during his presidency, according to officials, including reaffirming the university’s regional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Timelines set for considering species protection in 9 states (Washington Post) Officials have agreed on timelines for determining whether seven aquatic species from nine states will be protected under the Endangered Species Act.The animals include six fish and a freshwater mussel. One or more of the species are found in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The Center for Biological Diversity says the animals are at risk of extinction due primarily to water pollution and dams.

Same-Sex Marriage Supporters Plan To Take Campaign Outside Tennessee Capitol (WPLN) Supporters of same-sex marriage are gearing up for another battle with state lawmakers, but they’re planning on taking this fight far from the state Capitol. The focal point is a proposal, House Bill 1412, called the Tennessee Natural Marriage Protection Act. It says the state will recognize marriages only between a man and a woman, and will cover the court costs of any public official who refuses to uphold this summer’s Supreme Court ruling.

Tennessee Prison Investigation Decried As A ‘Sham’ Following Site Visits (WPLN) The results of an investigation into Tennessee’s prison conditions won’t be released for a month or so. But those who asked for the outside audit already say it’s a “sham.” Legislators are concerned that several episodes of prison violence in recent months are the result of staffing shortages. The American Correctional Association was brought in, even though some lawmakers said the organization would be biased because Tennessee prisons pay for regular inspections and are already accredited by the agency.

Critics say prisons knew of inspections in advance (WSMV) Critics said a staff roster not only showed the prison system knew in advance about the inspections, but that numbers of staff were also inflated. After blasting the Tennessee Department of Correction and rallying his fellow correctional officers, Tyler Nelson took another public swipe at TDOC. “I do not think this inspection will be an accurate portrayal of what’s happening,” Nelson. “Simply because of the fact that we tampered with what is actually happening.” At a news conference Monday with Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, Nelson released a roster from Sept. 14 at the Lois DeBerry Special Needs Facility where he works.

Rep. Mike Stewart Discusses Prison Inspections (WTVF) A state lawmaker has continued to be critical of the Tennessee Department of Correction. Representative Mike Stewart held a news conference Monday to say the American Correctional Association had paid a visit to Tennessee to check out various issues, such as staffing, at certain prisons. Stewart also said everyone knew about the visits ahead of time, so there were no surprise inspections.

Tennessee seen as key player in push to normalize relations with Cuba (News-Sentinel) Tennessee may be fewer than a thousand miles from Cuba in terms of geography, but politically and culturally, they are worlds apart. While the Volunteer State may not be the most obvious player in the campaign to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba, James Williams thinks Tennessee can play a role — and an important one at that. Engage Cuba, a nonprofit group headed by Williams, is targeting Tennessee and a handful of other states as it works to persuade Congress to lift travel and commercial restrictions against Cuba now that diplomatic relations between the two countries have been restored for the first time in half a century.

Clinton proposing $250 monthly cap on prescription drug costs for patients (Washington Post) Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is proposing a $250 monthly cap on the amount patients with chronic and serious medical problems would have to pay out of pocket for prescription drugs as a way to reduce the effect of skyrocketing drug prices on consumers. The cap is part of Clinton’s program to alter and expand the Affordable Care Act, the signature domestic policy achievement of President Obama, if she is elected to succeed him. Clinton will discuss the prescription drug plan Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa. Some details were provided by her campaign in advance.

TVA refuels unit at Watts Bar plant (Times-Free Press) The Tennessee Valley Authority said Monday it has begun a refueling at its Watts Bar Nuclear Plant Unit 1 for scheduled refueling and maintenance outage after the reactor generated more than 12.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity over the past 18 months. TVA is bringing in an extra 1,000 temporary TVA and contract workers to supplement Watts Bar’s regular staff during the outage. More than 10,600 work activities are planned, including loading new fuel assemblies, performing inspections of reactor components, maintenance of plant equipment and installing unit enhancements.

Contamination cleanup continues at Milan Army Plant (Jackson Sun) The 22,357 acres at the Milan Army Ammunition Plant may be sacred grounds, but remnants of wars past call for a massive cleanup that is expected to last another 60 years. Britt Locke, the commander’s representative at the plant said ground water contamination affected the Memphis Sand Aquifer, the local public water supply. The Army worked with the City of Milan in the early 1990s to relocate the municipal drinking water well field. The Army also placed institutional controls on property adjacent to the post that prohibits groundwater use in contaminated areas. Contamination in groundwater does not pose a threat to workers on the post, nearby residences, or businesses.

Volkswagen’s reputation erodes as diesel emissions scandal widens (Times-Free Press) Jim Lyon is one unhappy Volkswagen customer. “I bought into the clean diesel hype,” the Chickamauga, Ga., man said Monday of his decision three years ago to buy a new VW Golf TDI instead of the hybrid electric Toyota Prius, as he searched for the most environmentally friendly car on the market. Lyon was left reeling by charges Friday from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board that VW rigged the software of some 482,000 diesel cars — including Lyon’s — to evade vehicle emissions standards.

Volkswagen says 11 million vehicles worldwide affected by pollution scandal (Times Free Press) Volkswagen AG said Tuesday that some 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide were fitted with software at the center of a U.S. emissions scandal, and that it is setting aside around 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) to cover the fallout. In the wake of the company’s statement, the share price of the world’s top-selling carmaker took another battering. In midday trading in Frankfurt, VW’s share price was down another 18.8 percent at 108.45 euros and near a four-year low. The fall comes on top of Monday’s hefty 17 percent decline.

It Took E.P.A. Pressure to Get VW to Admit Fault (NY Times) Volkswagen executives told environmental regulators for more than a year that discrepancies between pollution tests on its diesel cars and the starkly higher levels out on the road were a technical error, not a deliberate attempt to deceive Washington officials. But this month, the executives made a startling admission: The diesel vehicles it sold in the United States used software meant to cheat on the tests.

Erlanger paying $3.5 million in employee bonuses after posting record earnings (Times-Free Press) Erlanger Health System will give its employees a record $3.5 million in bonuses next month after the hospital boosted its earnings last year to the highest level in the hospital’s 126-year history. Pending final approval by Erlanger trustees on Thursday, Chattanooga’s biggest hospital will give $400 to each of the more than 3,300 non-manager employees of Erlanger. The bonuses, which total $1.4 million, are the first companywide bonus checks given all Erlanger employees since 2004 and should be paid Oct. 2. Erlanger’s budget and finance committee endorsed the one-time payments Monday night after auditors said Erlanger more than tripled its net income in fiscal 2015 to a record $37.3 million, reversing more than $36 million the hospital previously lost from 2008 to 2013. In 2014, Erlanger earned $11.3 million.


Charlie Daniels Cartoon (News-Sentinel)

Editorial: State museum’s protocols merit an examination (News-Sentinel) A list of Tennessee State Museum art purchases between 2008 and 2014 appears to confirm museum board member and former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe’s allegation of Middle Tennessee bias in art purchases. Ashe should be commended for speaking out, but his demand for the replacement of longtime museum director Lois Riggins-Ezzell is doomed without support from other board members. In recent years nearly two-thirds of the money spent by museums on the purchase of art went to obtain works from Middle Tennessee artists. The list of 2008-2014 art purchases shows the museum spent $161,755 on art from Middle Tennessee. By comparison, the museum spent $55,893 for art from East Tennessee and $30,247 for art from West Tennessee.

Guest columnist: Students need to know more about Islam, not less (Tennessean) It’s hard to imagine a worse educational idea than the demand, voiced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn and several state legislators, to reduce the time Tennessee public schools devote to teaching students about Islam. Defenders of the current school curriculum, which includes a unit on the “world of Islam,” have been unnecessarily apologetic in response. Nothing being taught in our schools is more important than this unit; in fact, it should be expanded.

Pam Sohn: What was Volkswagen thinking? (Times-Free Press) The same Volkswagen company that Chattanoogans can credit for helping turn a 7,000-acre brownfield into the world’s greenest auto plant and one of the globe’s most environmentally friendly factories is now apologizing for deliberately cheating American pollution regulations. It’s hard to wrap our heads around such diametrically opposed actions. Four years ago, VW’s $1 billion auto assembly plant here gained LEED Platinum status — the highest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating. Shortly afterward, the automaker heated up its green image with a 33-acre solar park, the largest at any U.S. auto plant and the biggest array in Tennessee.

Clint Cooper: VW brand on the line (Times-Free Press) The revelation that Volkswagen intentionally used software on some of its diesel models to deceive regulators in measuring toxic emissions is deeply disappointing. The Passat, one of the models in which the software was used, is made in Chattanooga. But area residents, who have seen their local and state governments pour money into the automobile manufacturer’s local assembly plant, which in turn has furnished several thousands jobs, aren’t the only ones reeling from the news. Shares abroad in the carmaker’s stock plunged 20 percent early Monday, their biggest ever one-day tumble.

Guest columnist: Real Deacon Claybournes struggle to pay for health care (Tennessean) As a fan of ABC’s “Nashville,” I was heartbroken as a doctor frantically tried to resuscitate Deacon Claybourne during a life-saving liver transplant at the end of last season. Great story, right? But there is a very real piece of this plotline that has been grossly overlooked. How is the real-world musician Deacon paying for this complicated surgery, including the cost of medication, rehabilitation and harvesting his sister’s liver.

Monday, September 21

CSCC to host scholarship day (Columbia Daily Herald) Columbia State Community College will host “Scholarship Saturday” on Saturday, Sept. 26 for area high school and home school seniors to sign up for Tennessee Promise and complete their Columbia State application. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at all Columbia State campuses. The college’s usual application fee of $10 will be waived on Saturday only for any student who enrolls in Tennessee Promise and completes the Columbia State application during the event. Free food and drinks will also be available for anyone signing up.

Consultants earn $47K per month on state’s privatization effort (News-Sentinel) Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is paying more each month to three consultants retained to develop plans for privatizing management of all Tennessee government-owned real estate than it paid in salaries to four state employees assigned to the effort, state figures show. The team is operating under the title Strategies for Efficiency in Real Estate Management, or SEREM, and is led by Terry Cowles, who is director of the governor’s Office of Customer-Focused Government. It was set up earlier this year and has a goal of implementing a broad new outsourcing plan by July 1, 2016, according to SEREM documents initially obtained by WTVF-TV, though Haslam insisted last week the idea is to just explore options for saving taxpayer dollars and that he has no bias toward privatization.

Nonprofit sues DHS over food program (Tennessean) An agency that contracted with the Department of Human Services to feed low-income kids in Memphis has filed suit, alleging it was wrongly terminated from the program and the department failed to give it the proper, legally required assistance. Building Futures was among the larger non-profit providers of meals and snacks for poor children in Tennessee. It was one of hundreds of non-profit agencies that contract with DHS to distribute food in Tennessee, where one in four children is at risk for hunger. DHS paid Building Futures up to $400,000 per month in 2014 for serving food at 124 sites throughout Shelby County.

FCC Helps to Close Digital Divide in Tennessee (Government Technology) AT&T plans to extend high-speed Internet access to more than 81,000 homes and businesses in rural areas across Tennessee over the next six years, through an FCC funding program. Through the FCC’s Connect America Fund, AT&T will receive more than $26 million annually to provide the broadband service. Daniel Hayes, director of public affairs for AT&T, said details on which areas in East Tennessee are likely to receive the service are not yet available. “The FCC has identified the locations that qualify for the program, but at this point they have only released a breakdown to the state level,” Hayes said.

On TN State Museum, artwork and critics (News-Sentinel) Since former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe accused the Tennessee State Museum of geographic bias in contemporary art purchases, the museum has bought works by four East Tennessee artists — although still spending more money in Middle Tennessee, a review of records provided by the museum indicates. Ashe, a member of the museum’s board of directors, says the purchases of works by living artists from outside Middle Tennessee over the past two years are a step in the right direction, but “to balance the past discrimination, they’d have to buy almost everything from East and West Tennessee for years to come.”

State museum buys show Middle Tennessee tilt (News-Sentinel) Since former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe accused the Tennessee State Museum of geographic bias in contemporary art purchases, the museum has bought works by four East Tennessee artists — although still spending more money in Middle Tennessee, a review of records provided by the museum indicates. Ashe, a member of the museum’s board of directors, says the purchases of works by living artists from outside Middle Tennessee over the past two years are a step in the right direction, but “to balance the past discrimination, they’d have to buy almost everything from East and West Tennessee for years to come.”

Imagination Library marks two million book deliveries (KNOXVILLE) Children of all ages attended a party put on by the Imagination Library to mark a milestone in book deliveries. Two million books have been delivered to nearly 40,000 children in Knox County since Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library in 2005. Organizers say this kind of fulfillment fuels the goal Dolly had when she established the foundation.

With An Assist From Obama, Alexander Hopes To Have Simplified FAFSA Ready Next Year (WPLN) Lamar Alexander is welcoming a move by the Obama administration to simplify federal financial aid applications. The Tennessee senator says the proposal will remove one of the major barriers to kids going to college. He hopes to have a streamlined form in place next year. Alexander has pushed for years to make the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — or FAFSA — easier. Obama’s backing represents a breakthrough, the Republican lawmaker says. “I mean we’ve got bipartisan support. And I learned a long time ago that if you’ve got a good idea, you push it, you work with other people, and you don’t care who gets credit for it. So I’m glad to have the president support it.”

The South’s Journey From Carter to Trump (NY Times) Two events last month made for a strange juxtaposition: a celebration of a Southern president, Jimmy Carter, after he disclosed his battle with cancer, and the enthusiastic crowds that turned out in the South for the Republican candidates Donald J. Trump and Ted Cruz. There are few political figures with more differences between them. Mr. Carter is a former nuclear submarine commander and born-again Sunday school teacher; Mr. Trump, an egocentric real estate magnate; and Mr. Cruz, a Texas senator and self-styled right-wing rabble rouser who relishes belittling Mr. Carter.

The looming shutdown is ‘government disservice’ to U.S. taxpayers and employees (Washington Post) A new report with this diagnosis is particularly timely as Congress again toys with the American public and its workforce with another threat to shut down the government. The title of the report, “Government Disservice,” by the Partnership for Public Service, aptly describes what Congress does when it leads the country to the brink of a shutdown, as it is doing now, or worse, as was the case two years ago when a partial shutdown closed many government operations for 16 days.

VW chief “sorry” after EPA says firm skirted clean air law (AP) The CEO of Volkswagen apologized Sunday and VW customers said they felt duped after the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that the German automaker skirted clean air rules by rigging emissions tests for about 500,000 diesel cars. “I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public,” Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn said in a statement. He said VW has ordered an investigation and promised that the company would cooperate with regulators.

Drug Goes From $13.50 a Tablet to $750, Overnight (NY Times) Specialists in infectious disease are protesting a gigantic overnight increase in the price of a 62-year-old drug that is the standard of care for treating a life-threatening parasitic infection. The drug, called Daraprim, was acquired in August by Turing Pharmaceuticals, a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager. Turing immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars. “What is it that they are doing differently that has led to this dramatic increase?” said Dr. Judith Aberg, the chief of the division of infectious diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Hemp harvest leaves farmers disappointed (Johnson City Press) Local growers started with high hopes this year, but an underwhelming hemp crop — legal for the first time in 70 years — has left them reconsidering their involvement in the state’s pilot project. Legal red tape delayed delivery of seeds and restricted what they can do with the seeds they harvested this year, leaving Wayne Smith and Randall Ledford feeling like they financed Tennessee’s industrial hemp experiment. Smith, who, after finally receiving the seeds he ordered from the state in June, planted three pounds on a patch of his Eastern Star area land. He harvested 10 pounds of seeds this month, but said he likely would have had a much better yield had he received the seeds in April, when crops are normally planted.

Oregon’s Legal Sale of Marijuana Comes With Reprieve (NY Times) About 15 years ago, when she was in her 20s, Erika Walton handed a bong to someone who turned out be a police officer, and was cited for marijuana possession. She paid the fine, she said, but the violation lingered on, haunting her record. On a recent afternoon, Ms. Walton was at a free legal clinic here in Oregon’s largest city, filling out paperwork to have that infraction forever sealed. Once the process is complete, she will be able to legally say to an employer, landlord or anybody else who asks that she has never been convicted or cited for any drug crime at all.

Government Finds a New Business to Regulate: Personal Trainers (Governing) When Washington, D.C’s city council proposed — and then subsequently passed — a 5.75 percent tax on gym memberships and yoga classes last year, the city’s gym owners weren’t happy about it. Nicknamed the “yoga tax”‘ the regulation prompted protests; people did yoga and other exercises around government buildings to indicate their dissapproval. Still, the tax — which also encompasses tanning salons, car washes, bowling alleys, water delivery services, storage lockers and carpet cleaning — passed the city council last June.

Cumberland Plateau’s Rare Fringeless White Orchid Up For Federal Protection (WPLN) The Cumberland Plateau is home to a rare orchid that has become so scarce it’s now up for federal protection. The Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed putting the fringeless white orchid on the Endangered Species list under a “threatened” status. “Left unmanaged, the plant’s range and abundance will likely continue to diminish,” says a release from the agency. “In proposing to list the white fringeless orchid as threatened, we are acknowledging the severity of the threats it faces, and hopefully sounding a warning that will bring the increased conservation efforts needed to recover the plant before it’s situation becomes more dire,” southeast regional director Cindy Dohner said in a statement.

Kingsport leaders hold private meeting about openness, transparency (Times-News) Top city officials recently held a private meeting to receive information about a computer software company that specializes in tools to allow government to be more open and transparent. The meeting took place on Sept. 8 and included Mayor John Clark, Vice Mayor Mike McIntire and City Manager Jeff Fleming. Kingsport gave no public notice for the meeting. McIntire requested the meeting and said the purpose was to look at a website that sells performance management software.

‘You’re Fired’: Ways to Get Rid of Bad Government Workers (Governing) How hard is it to dismiss a public-sector employee because he or she is incompetent, repeatedly earns complaints from the public or shows up late every day? We hear different responses from human resource officials and from the managers who want the employees dismissed. HR people tend to emphasize that all a manager needs to do is keep proper documentation of bad behavior. But managers often tell us that the process of dismissal is arduous, if not impossible, unless the employee has engaged in egregious behavior like drinking on the job or waving a firearm around.


Editorial: Officials back constituents on public records (News-Sentinel) Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero have stepped forward to champion the public’s access to government records by opposing a proposed statewide assessment of fees to review public documents. Other East Tennessee officials — notably Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank and Knox County Clerk Foster Arnett Jr. — also are placing constituents over convenience. These officials and others across the Volunteer State are demonstrating grassroots leadership in combating a bill that would have a chilling effect on residents and news organizations.

Guest Columnist: Tennesseans Will Soon Breathe Easier (Times-Free Press) Tennesseans will be able to breathe easier thanks to new, stronger smog protections by President Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to be finalized in early October. The new smog safeguard will help significantly curb pollution from coal-fired power plants that is hurting our health, environment and economy. Smog pollution is directly linked to chronic asthma and other respiratory and lung diseases, so it is critical for the president and EPA to address the issue.

Glen Casada: Tennessee Democrats have abandoned long-held principles (Tennessean) As I read this opinion piece from the House Minority Caucus chairman, nothing struck me more than to realize just how far out of touch the once great Democratic Party in our state has fallen. While I read, I recalled how elected Democrats in Tennessee once honored our nation’s founding founders and were proud to be identified with such great men as Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. I also remembered President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, who once proclaimed, “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Sunday, September 20

Alexander brags on state’s college opportunity (Times-Free Press) U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said last week Tennessee high school students have “the best opportunity in history” to earn a college degree. The Senate Education Committee chairman spoke at an event with Gov. Bill Haslam where UBS announced a $2 million project called The TalentED Project, which will connect college admissions with high school guidance counselors to help them match talented students to colleges that are a good fit for them. Alexander called a college degree “the best investment they’ll ever make.”

Medical office receptionist charged with forging prescriptions (Times-News) A former receptionist for a Johnson City medical office has been indicted on more than 80 counts of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud and nearly a dozen counts of TennCare fraud. April Cook, 42, Mountain City, was arrested in Washington County on Wednesday on indictments charging her with 80 counts of prescription drug fraud, 11 counts of TennCare fraud and identity theft. She was arrested in Sullivan County in July on four charges of TennCare fraud and 10 counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

State yearly school costs could hit $700 million if Hamilton County wins lawsuit (Times-Free Press) If school boards in Hamilton and six nearby counties win their lawsuit charging Tennessee has consistently underfunded public education, state officials could find themselves dangling on a $700 million hook. And possibly more, based on dollar amounts outlined in the complaint pending before Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman.

Commissioner, all school districts get letters on Islamic teaching (News-Sentinel) The American Center for Law & Justice, a legal advocacy group for conservative Christian causes, is sending open records request letters to all Tennessee school districts for information on teaching Islam, reports The Tennessean. State Senate Education Chairman Dolores Gresham, meanwhile, is calling on the state Department of Education to caution all schools against Islamic indoctrination. From the Tennessean: Cece Heil, Senior Counsel with the ACLJ, said open records requests have gone to all 146 Tennessee public school districts because of the concerns voiced by parents to the organization.

Party Rules to Streamline Race May Backfire for G.O.P. (NY Times) When gloomy Republican Party leaders regrouped after President Obama’s 2012 re-election, they were intent on enhancing the party’s chances of winning back the White House. The result: new rules to head off a prolonged and divisive nomination fight, and to make certain the Republican standard-bearer is not pulled too far to the right before Election Day. But as the sprawling class of 2016 Republican presidential candidates tumbled out of their chaotic second debate last week, it was increasingly clear that those rule changes — from limiting the number of debates to adjusting how delegates are allocated — had failed to bring to the nominating process the order and speed that party leaders had craved.

Serious service errors plague Medicaid companies (Des Moines Register) The corporations poised to take over management of Iowa’s Medicaid program have each been held accountable in other states for serious service and administrative errors, including some that wrongly delayed or denied medical services to poor residents, a Des Moines Register investigation shows. Tennessee also fined UnitedHealthcare — another company in line to manage Iowa’s Medicaid program — $186,000 for “canceled appointments without letters.” Kelly Gunderson, a spokeswoman for TennCare, the agency that oversees the Tennessee contracts, was unable to provide further details on what prompted those penalties. But she said problems resulting in fines can range from how a letter is worded to failing to send notices as required.​

Dozens Pledge To Leave Cars Behind During ‘Don’t Car Week’ (WTVF) Starting this weekend, more than two dozen people in The Nations neighborhood have been pledging to leave their cars at home for one week. They’re calling it “Don’t Car Week,” and beyond helping get more cars off the road, folks at The Nations Neighborhood Association said they want to see what it’s like using the transportation options that have been there for people who can’t or don’t want to use cars to get around. It’s all in an effort to note what’s good and bad about the experience, and eventually improve those transportation options in the area.


Editorial: Officials back constituents on public records (News-Sentinel) Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero have stepped forward to champion the public’s access to government records by opposing a proposed statewide assessment of fees to review public documents. Other East Tennessee officials — notably Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank and Knox County Clerk Foster Arnett Jr. — also are placing constituents over convenience.

David Moon: Congress’ use of gas tax money is immoral (News-Sentinel) In July, Congress exercised its typical method of long-term planning by passing a three-month extension of general fund subsidies for the federal Highway Trust Fund. The extension is about to expire, again placing the topic in the news, but not likely any closer to a quasi-permanent resolution. The primary, intended source of money for the highway fund is the federal tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. In its basic form, a tax on gasoline as a voluntary user fee to fund highway construction makes sense. Imagine, however, if the government imposed this user fee on gasoline consumers, then used the proceeds for landscape beautification projects.

John J. Duncan Jr.: Decision to oppose Iran deal difficult but right (News-Sentinel) For most Republican members of Congress, the vote on the Iran nuclear agreement seemed to be a very easy one. For me, it was one of the most difficult since I have been in Congress. Throughout my career, I have favored diplomacy over war and have been very critical of “chickenhawks” who have been far too eager to send others to do their fighting. My views on foreign policy can best be described as “Eisenhower Republican,” and I have been very outspoken about the waste and excesses of the military-industrial complex. I wish the Pentagon would become much more fiscally conservative.

Tom Humphrey: Dem legislators start to make presence felt (News-Sentinel) Tennessee’s downtrodden Democrats, widely ignored by ruling state Republicans, may be gaining some traction in efforts to become at least a serious annoyance under new leadership. Just last week, for example, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart set up a website where Tennessee Department of Correction employees can anonymously relate complaints about prison working conditions — the latest episode in a continuing Democratic effort to fan the smoldering flames over TDOC’s handling of statistics on prison violence, overtime policy for guards and the like.