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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2012 DCS commissioner defends decision on closing Taft (Associated Press)

Department of Children's Services Commissioner Kathryn O'Day is defending Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's decision to close the Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe County. O'Day appeared before the House Government Operations on Wednesday to answer a series of questions from a bipartisan group of lawmakers who oppose closing the juvenile detention center in Pikeville. An overflow crowd attended the hour-long hearing, and extra security was on hand to limit access to hearing room. O'Day argued the state's five juvenile jails are not full and that Taft is the oldest and least efficient among them. The other facilities are located near Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville. Taft supporters noted the facility is the most restrictive in the state because it holds serious and repeat offenders.|newswell| text|News|s

Childrens Services chief on hot seat over closure of Taft Youth Center (TFP/Sher)
State Childrens Services Commission Kathryn ODay found herself on an hour-long hot seat today in the House Government Operations Committee as regional lawmakers tore into Gov. Bill Haslams plans to shut down Taft Youth Development Center in Pikeville. With an overflow crowd of upset Taft employees as well as officials from Bledsoe and Cumberland counties officials, Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, challenged ODay on projected savings from closing the facility and her assertions that the facility is the most inefficient among the states five youth centers. Sexton also disputed the commissioners contentions that the facilitys 96 teen residents can be safely handled in the other youth centers. ODay defended her recommendations to Haslam, a Republican, and said they fit within the governors push to provide the most efficient services at the lowest cost. Taft has the highest daily cost of incarceration, she said. Her staffers said almost all the facilitys 169-member staff should be able find jobs at a new prison for adults opening nearby.

Taft Center W ill Close; Locals Look for Alternatives (WDEF-TV Chattanooga)
Despite strong opposition from local authorities, the State of Tennessee will close the Taft Center in Bledsoe county this year. Phasing out that facility may leave a big hole in the local criminal justice system. COMMISSIONER MITCH MCCLURE, SECURITIES & CORRECTIONS "We're making progress with these young men, and now we're going to lose it." Governor Bill Haslam says the state needs to save 4-million dollars by closing the Taft Juvenile Development Center that's been part of Bledsoe county for 70 years. It's an economic tsunami for Pikeville because 150 locals work there. The center is holding 100 teens, described as "the worst of the worst", but its also a trade school that turns out kids who don't come back. SAM MAIRS, ADMINISTRATOR, JUVENILE COURT "Those kids came out of Taft better than they went into the system...and that' can't say that about every place." MITCH MCCLURE "The answer is..especially these young people, they're 17 to 19 years of age..teach them a skill, help them get their GED, help them find a way to re-enter back into the community because otherwise they'll be selling drugs. They'll be involved with the gangs..right back to crime is what they are doing."

Economic Officials Count $4 Billion in Capital Investment for 2011 (WPLN-Radio)

As the unemployment rate has improved in Tennessee, so has job creation. Governor Bill Haslam said in his State of the State speech this week that his economic policies are working. In 2011, there were more than 28,000 new Tennessee jobs created and over $4 billion dollars in capital investment. Haslams figures are part of a new report out Tuesday from the Department of Economic and Community Development, which is not taking credit for creating all 28,000 jobs. But for those positions that are a result of state incentives like from GM and

Amazon the report shows Tennessee is spending less roughly $2,400 per job. Thats nearly half what the state has spent in recent years.

TN ECD releases year-end report card; touts 28k new jobs (Memphis Biz Journal)
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development helped create more than 28,535 jobs over the last year, according to the departments 2011 Annual Report, released today. The report, available here (PDF), says ECD projects created 28,535 new jobs in Tennessee, representing more than $4 billion in investment. ECD called it one of the most productive years in the states history, and a validation of Gov. Bill Haslams Jobs4TN economic development plan, which emphasizes growth among existing Tennessee businesses. Making Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high-quality jobs continues to be a top priority for this administration, Haslam said in a press release. Our Jobs4TN plan is working. W e continue to focus on regionalism, existing businesses and key clusters while also pursuing new businesses for Tennessee. I am convinced that Tennessee can compete with anyone when it comes to attracting jobs.

Governors' speeches reflect cautious economic optimism (AP/Crary)

Glimmers of economic optimism. Concerns about jobs and health-care costs. These are among the recurring themes as governors across the nation deliver their annual State of the State addresses. Overwhelmingly, the speeches are focusing on fiscal issues, mostly in cautious tones. Is the current state of our state good enough? I think the answer is no, said Tennessee Bill HaslamLike many of his counterparts, Haslam hopes state Gov. . revenues are on the rebound. Yet he still called for eliminating nearly 1,200 state jobs, which would leave Tennessee just shy of 44,000 employees about 6,000 fewer than in 2008. Its been a trying few years for governors, with states cutting more than 80,000 jobs since the start of the recession. General fund spending has rebounded beyond pre-recession levels in 24 states, but the remaining 26 are still a collective $42 billion lower compared with the budgets approved in 2007. As for creating private-sector jobs, several Republican governors suggested this could best be addressed by further tax cuts.

State expanding rebate program for electric cars (Associated Press)

The state of Tennessee is adding a second car model to its electric vehicle rebate program, which so far has drawn fewer participants than expected. WSMV-TV reported Wednesday that the state will soon begin offering $2,500 rebates to owners of the Chevrolet Volt, an electric hybrid car. The rebate program in Tennessee is now only open to people who buy the all-electric Nissan LEAF. Car owners who chose to participate in the program must agree to allow data about how they use and charge their vehicles to be collected for a government-funded study. The information is being gathered by the California-based ECOtality. The company received a $99 million stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The state added $2.5 million in matching grant money for the rebates.|newswell|text|News|p

TennCare Proposing Tighter Restrictions For Nursing Home Coverage (WCYB-TV)

It's a question many baby boomers are starting to face. W hen do you put your loved one in a nursing home? TennCare is proposing changes that could make that decision for you -- and someone you love. News 5 found out it would save millions by keeping some people out of long-term nursing care. Making the decision to move her father to a nursing home was a difficult one for Tanya McClellan "It's a lot of anxiety because you worry. Is it the right thing to do for your loved one? But then, you also have to worry about the practical points," said McClellan. But for those on TennCare, that decision could be on tougher new standards aimed at saving the state at least $15 million W e asked a TennCare spokesperson and found out they're proposing tighter restrictions for long-term nursing home coverage. Right now, the state only requires one activity of daily living deficiency, known as an ADL, such as not being able to feed or bathe yourself. The new proposal would change that requirement to four ADL's by next year.

Baby boomers hit the books at community colleges (Tennessean/DeVille)

Pinched by economy, many seek new start at school Susan Boase never aspired to be an administrative assistant, but she was still devastated when she was laid off from her job at a drug and alcohol treatment center 2

two years ago. Unemployed at 54, the Franklin resident is scared. Her unemployment checks are dwindling. Shes too young to collect full Social Security benefits. But Boase is banking on something shes always loved as her financial savior. Shes enrolled in the culinary arts program at Nashville State Community College, hoping to co-own a restaurant or get a job managing a culinary program at a college or university. Im petrified because Im financially dependent on this working, and its scary because I am single, she said. But Im loving every minute of it. Community colleges here and nationwide are seeing a new wave of enrollment from baby boomers up 6 percent from 2007 and more than 12 percent in seven years, American Association of Community Colleges data show. Money is the most common force driving boomers back to community colleges. Theyve been hit hard by the stock market slump or company downsizing. In school, they find a new world of technology and classmates who call them sir and maam. But their professors say theyre more driven and engaged, willing to do what it takes to finish.|topnews|text|News

UM to receive $13 million if Haslam budget is approved (Daily Helmsman)

The University of Memphis will receive $13 million of Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam's proposed budget of roughly $31 billion, if approved by the General Assembly this spring. Of the money allotted to The U of M, roughly 10 percent is for planning and design of a new biochemistry and biology facility and 30 percent will be received for improvements to the Lambuth campus. Sixty percent will fund major maintenance projects on the main campus such as elevator modernization, underground utility upgrades and HVAC updates. Compared to other Tennessee schools with similar student populations, The U of M was given a significantly smaller amount of money, but University officials say the distribution of resources is fair. Middle Tennessee State University and University of Tennessee Knoxville will receive over $220 million combined from the budget for capital improvements if Haslam's proposal is approved. "W e are not getting a raw deal," said Kevin Roper executive assistant of government affairs at The U of M. "There is a process in place with (Tennessee Higher Education Commission) and the buildings being funded were on the list prior to U of M's buildings being funded. As funding becomes available, we will get our buildings funded next year."

University of Tennessee Gets New Slogan (Associated Press)

The University of Tennessee has a new branding campaign: "Big Orange. Big Ideas." According to The Knoxville News Sentinel, the slogan will be used in UT's local and national advertisements and on its new redesigned website h ttp:// Flags, posters and banners on campus Wednesday announced the new campaign. ( ). Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said the campaign provides a much-needed platform for telling the university story and strengthening its reputation.

'Big Orange. Big Ideas.': UT unveils new branding campaign (NS/Boehnke)

Students lined up beneath a giant banner outside John C. Hodges Library on Wednesday, waiting patiently for free T-shirts, buttons and stickers that all read the same thing: "Big Orange. Big Ideas." It's the new slogan for the University of Tennessee, meant to marry big-time sports with big-time academic goals in branding the school under one message. The catchphrase will soon be on recruiting material, campus banners, brochures and commercials that run during football and basketball games. The university also introduced a new redesigned website Wednesday that includes the new branding messages. "We want everyone to rally around it, to be excited about it," said Margie Nichols, vice chancellor for communications, whose office oversaw the project. "It's a uniting message that every college and every center can use." The school is rolling out the campaign internally now, but will add it to recruiting material, brochures and national commercials next year, said Erik Bledsoe, director of creative communications at UT. "Those halftime spots (during televised athletic events) are our primary vehicle for reaching people across the country," he said.

ETSU reports record spring 2012 enrollment (Johnson City Press)

More than 14,000 students are enrolled at East Tennessee State University this semester, according to the school. ETSU announced Wednesday 14,466 students were attending classes for the spring 2012 semester. This is a record number, up by 283 students from this time in 2011 when enrollment was 14,183. The school said more students are enrolled in every category, including undergraduates, transfer students, first-time freshmen and graduate students. This number also includes medical and pharmacy students. New ETSU President Brian 3

Noland said he was happy more and more people are pursuing their goals. The most exciting aspect of this announcement is that 14,466 men and women are transforming their lives by pursuing some level of higher education, ETSU President Brian Noland said in a news release. Im delighted to be part of this campus community during this time of enrollment growth. ETSU has enrolled more students each fall and spring semester than the previous corresponding semesters for many years. ETSU reported more than 15,500 students enrolled this past fall semester. Enrollment typically is less in the spring than the fall, because of December graduation and fewer enrollees in the middle of the academic year. But the school has been experiencing increases in the spring from previous springs. id=97978#ixzz1lDx9Lrv9

THP: Trooper deliberately drove past fatal wreck after chase (News-Sentinel/Lakin)
The trooper grabbed his gear and ran to the blazing car not to save a life, but to put on a show. "I got out and got my fire extinguisher just to make it look good," Trooper Charles Van Morgan told Tennessee Highway Patrol investigators. "I knew he was dead, but you, you got to do that for the media and everyone else. I was just trying to put on a show." The wreck cost driver Gordon Kyle Anito his life, and the show could cost Morgan his job. THP officials concluded Morgan deliberately drove past the Nov. 20 crash in North Knox County that killed Anito, 20, after a chase, didn't stop to help and didn't go back to the scene until another officer spotted the wrecked car in flames. Anito's parents filed a $10 million wrongful-death lawsuit against Morgan and the THP in federal court this week. THP officials moved to fire Morgan but initially wouldn't turn over the paperwork. Officials finally released to the media the letter recommending Morgan's termination Wednesday night. The letter reveals Morgan's bosses found no fault in his chase of Anito, who Morgan had clocked driving south on Emory Road at nearly 80 mph in a 40 mph zone just before 3:30 a.m. But video from his cruiser shows Morgan driving past Anito's 2005 Subaru Impreza crumpled against a tree in a well-lit spot fewer than 15 feet from the road.

Diverse Views Among Lawmakers on Judicial Selection (TN Report)

After Tennessees top three elected officials put the issue front-and-center last week, opinions about the states judicial selection process are still shaking out on Capitol Hill. And while the issue has divided state legislators, it has not necessarily done so along partisan lines. Opposition to a constitutional amendment has cropped up, in one form or another, from Democrats and Republicans alike, casting some doubt on the likelihood that such a resolution could get the two-thirds vote it would need to make it on the ballot in 2014. In a joint press conference last W ednesday, Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell announced they will be pushing for a resolution that would give voters the chance to weigh in on a constitutional amendment that would enshrine the states current process. A selection commission provides the governor with a list of candidates from which to appoint judges. Once appointed, those judges, who serve eight-year terms, face a yesor-no retention election after their first term.

Lawmakers discuss bills to reduce sales tax (Associated Press)

The Republican sponsor of a proposal to reduce the sales tax on groceries in Tennessee says he's open to working with Democrats who have a similar measure if it will help the legislation's passage. The bill by Rep. Glenn Casada of Franklin was placed behind the budget in the House Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday. It will be revisited if any money is left after the state's budget is set. Casada's proposal would reduce the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5 percent, where the Democrats have a plan that would drop it a half-cent more. Gov. Bill Haslam's budget contains a proposal to reduce the sales tax to 5.3 percent. Casada says he applauds the governor's effort, but would like to see the tax reduced more. He estimates his proposal would cost $42 million.|newswell|text|News|s

3 public safety bills advance (Tennessean/Haas)

One measure causes concerns over its pricetag Three key measures in Gov. Bill Haslams public safety plan sailed through a subcommittee Wednesday, including unfunded mandates that would force counties to pay to lock up repeat domestic violence offenders. The Tennessee House Judiciary Subcommittee took up the bills briefly, passing all three without any discussion or questions. The bills would increase penalties for felons who possess guns, enhance penalties for certain crimes committed by groups of three or more people and add mandatory minimum jail sentences for repeat domestic violence offenders. Haslams domestic violence measure would force judges to sentence those convicted of a second domestic violence offense to at least 45 days in jail 4

and those convicted of three or more to spend at least 120 days in jail. While most sheriffs, such as Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, are supportive of getting tougher on domestic violence, many have been critical of the $9 million price tag money that counties, not the state, will have to pay. In a year where everyones asked for budget reductions a mandate that creates more costs to the local government is of course concerning, said Karla Weikal, spokesman for Halls office. S02/302020071/3public-safety-bills-advance?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|News|s

ECD Due Diligence Bill Advances in Senate (TN Report)

Gov. Bill Haslam, who wants to expand taxpayer-funded grants to business, is also suggesting that extra information collected to pick the winners be kept hidden from public view. Due diligence documents such as corporate financial statements, budgets, cash flow reports and ownership information would be reviewed by politicians and agency staff but would not be open under a measure, Senate Bill 2207, that advanced out of a Senate committee Tuesday on an 8-0 vote with little debate. Haslam, a Republican, wants to pump $70 million into the Fast Track grant program which is used to entice companies like Amazon to locate in Tennessee in addition to tax incentives and tax credits. Under SB2207, the state would collect more information from applying businesses but share none of it with taxpayers. You have to recognize that as a private company, that they have a need to keep information private, Sen. Bo Watson, a Hixson Republican and the bills co-prime sponsor, told TNReport.

Amazons Sales Tax Deal Moves Toward Becoming State Law (WPLN-Radio Nash.)
Tennessees deal with to put off collecting sales tax is moving quickly through the legislature. When the Internet retailer began building distribution centers in Tennessee last year, competitors complained that they have to collect sales tax while the on-line store was home free. Amazon and the state negotiated that issue through two governors administrations Under the final compromise, Amazon begins collecting sales tax in 2014. The deal zoomed through a subcommittee and is one step away from a vote in the state House. Majority Leader Gerald McCormick is shepherding the legislation. Sales tax is already due, when you buy items on-line from Amazon. This just puts it into law that Amazon will collect that sales tax, rather than just letting you know youre supposed to send money to the state. McCormick says hes pretty sure most Tennesseans arent voluntarily writing a check to the state to cover the tax on their on-line purchases.

Teacher evaluation (TN/Hubbard)








Amid mounting controversy, Tennessee lawmakers from both parties and opposite ends of the state are eager to fix the states new teacher evaluation system. Nearly 20 bills by legislators rushing to make changes were filed by Wednesdays deadline, and while Gov. Bill Haslam has urged the General Assembly not to tinker with the system yet, lawmakers say at least some of the bills probably will make it through. Some Democrats propose making this a trial year for the newly launched evaluations, which educators statewide have criticized as unfair, untested and time-consuming. Others want to allow average teachers the chance to make tenure instead of restricting it to those with top ratings. Republicans are less aggressive in challenging the new evaluation system but also have suggested changes, such as setting aside $40 million to give bonuses to top-scoring teachers. Tennessee is one of the earliest states to implement a teacher evaluation system tied to student test scores. State leaders wanting to secure millions in federal Race to the Top funds pledged in 2010 to create a new teacher evaluation system and then designed, piloted and trained teachers how to use it in one year to meet the promise.|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Casada: Leaving Exchange to Governor Viable Option (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessees legislature could take a hands-off approach to setting up a state insurance exchange, as part of the federal healthcare law. A conservative lawmaker says his peers might simply leave the details to the governor. Franklin Republican Glen Casada says many of his colleagues find it unpalatable to switch on part of the federal healthcare overhaul. Casada says in talks with constituents, he lays it out as a choice between the lesser of two evils: I think some Tennesseans think that if the state rejects the health insurance exchange, then we have effectively stopped Obamacare, and that couldnt be further from the truth. The health insurance exchange 5

its federal law, it will be implemented. So now the question is: Does Tennessee do it, with our policy and procedures, or do the feds do it with their policies and procedures? Officials say its not yet clear what a state exchange would look like, or what exactly the governor would need lawmakers to sign off on, if anything. So Casada says the legislature could simply hand over the power to set up an exchange, and leave it at that. But he says its too soon to know which way members are leaning.

Bill targeting Occupy protesters advances (Associated Press)

A proposal that seeks to prevent Occupy Nashville protesters from staying overnight on the plaza next to the state Capitol is advancing in the House. The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric W atson of Cleveland was approved on a voice vote in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Wednesday. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The legislation would make it a misdemeanor to lay down "bedding for the purpose of sleeping." The protesters have been encamped at the plaza since early October. There are about 60 or so tents on the plaza and at least two portable toilets nearby. Watson says the proposal is necessary because of complaints of criminal activity and lewd behavior, including a couple last year having sex near his windows.|newswell|text|News|s

Lawmakers move toward ouster of Occupy Nashville tents (Tennessean/Sisk)

Tennessee lawmakers moved Wednesday toward ousting the Occupy Nashville encampment from the grounds of the state Capitol, after a legislator said action is needed to stop the theft of a public place. A subcommittee in the House of Representatives approved a measure that would bar camping on state property without permission, taking the first step toward giving Gov. Bill Haslam the legal authority to remove the approximately four dozen tents erected on War Memorial Plaza. The move puts the legislature on track to authorize removal of the encampment within a matter of weeks. A representative for the Occupy Nashville protest tried to convince the House Judiciary subcommittee that the tents are a form of protest that should be protected by the First Amendment. But members acted unanimously to endorse removing an encampment that the measures sponsor, state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, said has fostered crime, lewdness and unsanitary conditions since it began in October. Its shameful what has been taking place on the plaza, W atson said. The subcommittee vote Wednesday marked the first move against Occupy Nashville since U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger issued an injunction in November preventing the Haslam administration from enforcing new rules that ban camping on War Memorial Plaza.|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Ford seeking to exempt golf course operators from some taxes (Times-News)
State Rep. Dale Ford is defending his legislation to exempt Tennessee golf course operators from paying state and local sales taxes on golf carts and course maintenance items. Fords bill was deferred W ednesday for one week in a House Finance Subcommittee at his request. Ford, R-Jonesborough, pointed out state-run golf courses are exempt from paying sales tax on essential items like fertilizer. Its not a level playing field, Ford said of the taxes imposed on state-run golf courses. Were having problems with this economic downturn, and guys are having to close their doors. Every time they do, youre losing 20 to 25 jobs or more. Tennessees current sales tax rate is 7 percent, while the average local option sales tax rate is 2.5 percent. According to Fords bill, golf course operators would be exempted from paying sales taxes when buying or leasing golf carts, plus lawn equipment and care. Golf course operators would be required to submit an application to the Department of Revenue for a five-year exemption. The states Fiscal Review Committee noted about 150 of Tennessees 214 golf courses and country clubs did not have a tax-exempt status based on 2002 census data.

Berke has $100,000 in his war chest (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Burke)

State Sen. Andy Berke raised a little more than $100,000 in campaign contributions last year that he can use to run for re-election to the 11th District seat or possibly shift to a 2013 race for Chattanooga mayor. On Tuesday, Berke, a Chattanooga Democrat, reported to the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance that he raised $105,517 between July 1, 2011, and Jan. 15. His campaign cash on hand is $126,069.45, records show. Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, reported raising $21,262.50. Dean has said he is considering running against Berke for the Senate. Redistricting made the district more Republican, adding areas such as East Ridge and a large slice of Bradley County. Dean has a $36,569.54 cash balance, according to his finance report. Senate 6

Republicans are expected to help him should he decide to run. Berke said he still is deciding between the Senate and a mayoral bid. "I've been talking to local citizens about the future of our area. There's certainly a desire to see leadership for our future as we face the next several years," he said. "I think people are hungering for practical leadership that offers solutions on jobs and education," Berke said. He noted that 340 individuals and about 20 political action committees gave to his campaign in a nonelection year.

Map gives closer view of new 37th District (Daily News Journal)
The new wedge-shaped 37th House District stretches from eastern La Vergne through part of Smyrna all the way to East Main Street in central Murfreesboro, according to recently-released maps, creating an open field for Republican and Democratic candidates. But nearly a month after the Legislature approved House, Senate and congressional district lines for reapportionment, only one candidate has emerged officially, with an April 5 qualifying deadline approaching. Murfreesboro resident Dawn White, formerly of Smyrna, has announced plans to run in the Republican primary for the new House post, which was set up because of Rutherford Countys population growth over the last decade. She said the 37th Districts lines worked out perfectly for her to enter the race because they contain her home on Riverview Drive and her Smyrna business, RMM Enterprises, an Internet-based vacuum and sewing appliances operation. When I saw the map, I thought this is a great district for me, so well run and give it a shot, White said. W ere very excited about it. Its a great way to serve the community. She pointed out that serving in the House would fit with her nonprofit service as a board member of CASA of Rutherford County, the MTMC Ambassadors, Linebaugh Library Foundation, Read to Succeed and the Sam Davis Memorial Association. S/302020029/Map-gives-closer-view-new-37th-District?odyssey=tab| topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Tourism taxes give Nash. enough $ to keep Music City Center on budget (TN/Cass)
After more than a year of tourist traffic that surpassed expectations, Metro officials will reserve $15 million of excess tax revenues so they can cover land acquisition costs for the Music City Center project if the city loses its appeal of a costly court ruling. The move should keep the $585 million construction project within its budget, said Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling, who plans to tell the citys convention center authority about the plan today. Were in great shape, Riebeling said W ednesday. Its being done within the constraints of what we said we had to do. A cloud has hung over the Music City Centers budget since a jury ruled last summer in favor of Tower Investments, which contested the amount of money the Metro Development and Housing Agency agreed to pay for land in the centers footprint. While MDHA valued the 5.66-acre parking lot at $14.8 million, the jury agreed with the developer that it was worth $30.4 million. Davidson County Circuit Judge Joe Binkley agreed in December. Riebeling said Metro now should be able to pay Tower without busting the budget even if it loses the case on appeal and has to pay the developer interest.|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Hamilton County makes plans to fill Judge Bob Moon's seat (TFP/Haman)
The first official discussion of General Sessions Judge Bob Moon's replacement came Wednesday in the Hamilton County Commission meeting. But under their breath, commissioners talked about "vultures" who've been circling his empty chair since news of his death broke last Thursday. Commissioner Joe Graham said a potential candidate approached him about the matter at Moon's funeral over the weekend. Graham declined to name the person. Despite criticism of what they deemed premature interest, commissioners on Wednesday kicked off the race for the $156,000-a-year judgeship. "I had a discussion with the other judges in General Sessions and certainly their decision is to go ahead and expedite this," Commission Chairman Larry Henry said. Commissioners passed a resolution asking the county's Election Commission to place a special election for the nonpartisan judgeship on the Aug. 2 ballot. After that, they set the ground rules for the interim appointment process, with a goal of appointing someone on March 1. The deadline for applications is Feb. 10 at noon. Commissioners will then individually interview candidates between Feb. 13 and 29.

Still No Consensus (Memphis Flyer)


Even as Memphis city government finds itself locked in a high-stakes struggle with a suburban/state government agenda, and as public attention begins inevitably to turn in that direction, the Shelby County Commission continues to be mired in a dispute over redistricting that seems no closer to resolution than ever. It took the better part of two hours on W ednesday, and immersion in a stupefying amount of both detail and rancor, but the Commissions general government committee did manage two votes one of 6-6 on redistricting map 3C, which posits 4 three-member districts and 1 single-member district; and another of 6-4 with 2 abstentions on 2J, a map dividing Shelby County into 13 single-member districts. That translated into a fail for 3C and a provisional pass for 2J, although for either plan to succeed requires a series of two majority votes (at least 7 supporters) and a final super-majority of 9. In one version or another, both plans have been there before as has a variant plan with 6 two-member districts and 1 single-member district. And, though at various time several of the major questions about all of the plans had seemed to be answered, all of them were called back up again in a meandering and often bitter debate.

Corker Wants End to Budget Gimmicks (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker stood with more than twenty Republican colleagues from the U.S. House and Senate today to oppose what they call budget gimmicks. Federal budgeting involves a lot of smoke and mirrors. For instance, lawmakers claim savings from money that was never spentmuch like claiming you saved five hundred dollars by not buying an iPad. Corker says the gimmicks are mind numbing. One of the greatest frustrations here is knowing that so much of what happens in the budgeting process is make belief. Among other things, the Honest Budget Act would make it harder for Congress to avoid laying out an annual budget, or spending blueprint, something the Senate hasnt done in three years. It also requires three-fifths of Congress to approve often pork-laden, emergency spending bills. Corker has supported many emergency bills in the past, such as to fund the Iraq War during the Bush Administration. As for the difference now that a Democrat is in the Oval Office?

Duncan-sponsored bill would increase truck loads, allow more trailers (Scripps)
A new highway bill introduced by U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. would allow states to increase weight restrictions for tractor-trailers and allow one truck to haul three trailers. The American Energy Infrastructure Jobs Act, which encompasses a wide array of transportation legislation and would spend $260 billion over five years, is up for a committee vote this morning. To Duncan, R-Knoxville, chairman of the House Transportation Committee subcommittee on highways and transit, more funding means more jobs. "Job creation is the No. 1 priority for voters across the United States," Duncan said in a statement when the bill was introduced Tuesday. "This bill gives state governments a long-term funding stream that will put Americans back to work by improving our nation's highway and transit system." He said it also would help relieve stress associated with congestion. Sitting in traffic cost Americans an extra 3.9 billion gallons of gas in 2009, according to a study that Duncan cited. All of the idling wound up costing the economy more than $100 billion, he said. The bill would streamline the process for allocating money to projects. According to the bill's summary, it "establishes hard deadlines for federal agencies to make decisions on permits and project approvals." Duncan said less red tape means quicker delivery and more money in the taxpayers' wallet.

Reps. Black, Blackburn, Fincher get jump on fundraising (Tennessean/Bewley)

Tennessees U.S. representatives were stocking up on campaign cash well before the election year began, recently released campaign finance reports show. W hen it came to flexing their fundraising muscles in 2011, three Tennessee lawmakers stood out: Republican Reps. Diane Black of Gallatin, Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump and Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood. Blacks campaign brought in close to $1.9 million last year, nearly half of which was self-financed. Fincher raised more than $1.2 million, and Blackburn brought in more than $900,000. Blackburn and Fincher ended the year with more than $1 million. Black spent more, ending the year with $545,750. In the final three months of 2011, Black raised more than any other Tennessee member $464,051. Fifty-eight percent of that was self-financed, while 23 percent came from individual donors and 19 percent came from political action committees. Fincher, a farmer and member of the House Financial Services Committee, raised the next-highest amount in the last three months of the year $327,582. Nearly 65 percent of that came from individuals. The rest came from PACs, including many associated with the financial services and farming 8


U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Weston Wamp spar over PAC funds (TFP/Carroll)
Forty percent of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann's total re-election contributions of more than $700,000 came from political action committees, a fact one of his primary opponents pounced upon Wednesday. "You have to question who Fleischmann's allegiances are with, based on him taking all this PAC money," said Weston Wamp, 24, the son of former congressman Zach Wamp. But Fleischmann's campaign called a $5,000 gift Weston Wamp received from leftover funds in his father's 2010 gubernatorial campaign a PAC donation itself -- the $4 million the elder Wamp raised included $62,510 from more than a dozen PACs across the country. Fleischmann was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Chip Saltsman, Fleischmann's chief of staff, said the younger Wamp's criticism showed hypocrisy and said "he should probably return" his father's $5,000 contribution. "He attacks us on PAC money -- he's got PAC money," Saltsman said. "If we say, 'It's a pretty day in Chattanooga,' he's going to say, 'No, it's not.' We're going to see this, which is very sad, for the next couple months. It'll be him just constantly attacking Chuck for everything." Year-end financial reports for both candidates became public Tuesday. Last year's fourth and final quarter spanned between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31.

Tennessee hospital group saves money, improves care (Times Free-Press/Martin)

Two years after it was implemented, a 10-hospital collaborative in Tennessee -- including Erlanger Health System -- has seen improved patient care and millions of dollars in savings through its focus on surgical outcomes and best practices. A study published Jan. 23 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons finds the Tennessee Surgical Quality Collaborative had significant improvements in various surgical procedures from 2009 to 2010, including lower rates of acute renal failure, superficial site infection and wound disruption. The improvements led to a savings of nearly $2.2 million per 10,000 cases and a total potential savings of up to $8 million for all cases, the study said. The collaborative is one of the first of its kind in the nation and shows the benefits of doctors, hospitals and insurance groups working together, said Dr. Joseph B. Cofer, a professor of surgery and surgery residency program director in the Department of Surgery at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine-Chattanooga. Cofer is involved with the collaborative and helped write the study.

Wrong About 2011, Hospital Analysts Say Maybe 2012 (W PLN-Radio Nashville)
Health care analysts who were bullish about Nashville-based hospital chains last year are picking those stocks to do well again in 2012, even though their predictions were wrong last year. The Nashville Health Care Council gets a group of big name analysts together annually. And they make their predictions and stock picks. This year, several admitted they made a mistake with hospital chains. Whit Mayo is an analyst with the firm Robert W. Baird. We were extremely too optimistic on hospitals. I look back and try to assess what did I mess up, where did we screw up, what could we have done differently. W hile investors believed Nashville-based HCAs return to being a publicly traded company would lift the entire sector, the rising tide didnt last. Adam Feinstein of Barclays Capital says he never imagined that debt ceiling and deficit cutting debates would hit the sector so hard. He says the perceptions of how hospitals might be harmed by cuts to Medicare and Medicaid were worse than reality. So I think the good news, as we come into 2012, is we think theres room for improvement in terms of how people think about these stocks.

Germantown supports separate schools (Commercial Appeal/Garlington)

While the rain may have kept a few people away from Wednesday night's Town Hall meeting, about 500 Germantown residents came to show their support for a separate municipal school district. But some made it clear that they're reluctant to pay for the education of students outside the city limits. A recent feasibility study shows that a proposed Germantown school system would have 8,142 students under the existing Shelby County school boundaries, which encompass areas outside city limits. About 40 percent of the students attending schools in Germantown would live outside the city in Collierville and in unincorporated Cordova and Southeast Shelby County. Amanda White wanted to know whether nonresidents would be paying a fee to attend 9

Germantown schools. "If they don't shop in Germantown," thus contributing to the sales tax, she said, "they'll be attending for free." Dr. Jim Mitchell with the consulting firm Southern Educational Strategies told the crowd at Germantown Performing Arts Centre that a Germantown-only district is feasible. "Anything is possible," he said. But he later added, "The cost of operating a school district will go up." He did not elaborate on how much it would cost for a Germantown-only district.

A Two-Front War (Memphis Flyer)

We ain't seen nothing yet. Concomitant with this week's surprise move by state senator Mark Norris and state representative Curry Todd, both of Collierville, to co-opt Memphis' agreed-upon annexation reserve on behalf of the suburbs and the city's hurry-up response to annex the Gray's Creek area, was another ticking time bomb. This one was courtesy of former longtime Shelby County Schools board chairman David Pickler, a key member now of both the interim Unified School Board and the Transition Planning Commission established to guide city/county school merger. In a weekend interview with the Flyer, Pickler confided his intent to persuade his fellow TPC members to reconstrue their mission so as to incorporate the concept of multiple school districts. Said Pickler: "They need to understand that, whereas the opinion heretofore on the committee has been that they believe their charge is only to develop a plan for the entire district, I think that what Senator Norris has put before us and what the municipal communities are moving toward is going to impose a new reality on the commission and its charge." Accordingly, Pickler announced his intention to address this Thursday's meeting of the TPC by conference call from Washington, where he would be in his role as president-elect of the National School Board Association. He would ask his colleagues to entertain a visit from Jim Mitchell, the former SCS superintendent who now heads Southern Educational Strategies, the consultant group which is advising Memphis' municipal suburbs on the likely formation of their own school systems.

Indiana: Governor Signs a Law Creating a Right to Work State (New York Times)
Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, who had once said that he did not wish to add a right to work provision to the states labor laws, signed a bill on Wednesday doing just that. The legislation, which bars union contracts from requiring non-union members to pay fees for representation, makes Indiana the first state in more than a decade to enact right to work legislation and the only one in the Midwestern manufacturing belt to have such a law. Mr. Daniels, a Republican who is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election this year, signed the measure only hours after it cleared the Republican-held State Senate an unusually speedy journey through the Statehouse aimed, many said, at ending what had become a rancorous, partisan fight before the national spotlight of the Super Bowl arrives in Indianapolis on Sunday. The bill, which takes effect immediately, makes Indiana the 23rd state in the nation with such a law. It remained uncertain whether final approval of the bill would prevent union protests at events related to the Super Bowl, and on Wednesday thousands of union members and supporters marched, chanting in protest, from the Statehouse to Lucas Oil Stadium, the site of the football game. (SUB)

Mississippi: Court Takes Up Challenge to Pardons (Associated Press)

The State Supreme Court said late Wednesday that it would take up the legal challenge to the pardons approved by Gov. Haley Barbour before he left office, scheduling a hearing for Feb. 9. State Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, wants to invalidate dozens of the 198 pardons that Mr. Barbour, a Republican, handed out before his term ended Jan. 10. Mr. Hood says only about two dozen of the people pardoned followed the State Constitutions requirement to publish a notice about their reprieves in their local newspapers for 30 days. He wants the others invalidated. Most of the people who could lose their pardons have already served their sentences and been out of prison for years. (SUBSCRIPTION)



OPINION Editorial: Haslam wise to budget in science bldg. for MTSU (Daily News Journal)
Its in the governors budget. Whew. Gov. Bill Haslam delighted the MTSU community this week when he unveiled a budget that includes $126.7 million for the long-awaited, much anticipated MTSU Science Building project. The General Assembly must give final approval for Haslams proposed expenditures, but it appears this needed improvement to the Blue Raider campus is on its way to becoming a reality. Its an endeavor that required much lobbying on the part of MTSU President Sidney McPhee, university administrators, alumni and supporters as well as the collective backing from the countys legislative delegation. The science building atop the Tennessee Higher Education Commissions capital projects list for several years and appeared to be doomed there. Whether politics, tightened budgets, shifting state priorities or other reasons, the project simply wasnt able to break through until now. As McPhee pointed out, on-site visits by state legislative leaders to the Wiser-Patten Science Hall and Davis Science Building were likely the tipping point in favor of securing funding. After a firsthand look at the aging infrastructure and equipment, state officials could no longer avoid the obvious need to invest in our fast growing university and better prepare our students for the economy of the future.|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Editorial: Haslam looks to improve state (Leaf Chronicle)

When it came to his State of the State speech, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam deserved credit for calling it like he saw it instead of depending on an old standby assessment. He could have said that under his executive management this past year, the state of the state is great. Instead, he asked the question, Is the current state of our state good enough? And then he answered, I think the answer is no. I think we can believe in better. His $31 billion spending plan included both a 2.5 percent pay increase for state workers at a cost of $123.8 million and the elimination of about 1,200 state jobs across Tennessee about half of which are currently filled. He also recommended spending increases for TennCare, public education, and university capital projects and adding 11

$50 million to the so-called rainy day fund. That would increase cash reserves to more than $350 million Overall, the state budget would contract by 2.7 percent to balance out the amount of funding that Tennessee is losing in federal assistance. Still, it should be noted that Washington continues to contribute a sizable amount 39.6 percent to the states bottom line. All Tennesseans would receive a tax break at food stores under a proposal to reduce the sales tax on groceries from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent. The more affluent would see an increase on the exemption for the inheritance tax from $1 million to $1.25 million.

Editorial: Mr. Vanilla (Memphis Flyer)

When Bill Haslam, then the mayor of Knoxville, was kind enough (like most of the other gubernatorial candidates) to drop by our offices during the 2010 campaign and discuss governance with our editorial staff, we were impressed as much by his generous, evenhanded demeanor as by specific policy points. He was a likable fellow, made even more so by the contrast with his GOP opponents, Zach Wamp and Ron Ramsey. As far as policy points, we got what we pretty much had expected from Haslam talk of well-intentioned initiatives and reforms that corresponded with Republican Party "lean-government" bromides and, up to a point, with common sense. W e were not overly dismayed when he was ultimately elected. Monday night's State of the State address was on a par with our initial impressions. The governor moved deftly from effective (if somewhat shopworn) slogans like "We Must Do More with Less" to program propositions that reflected them. And he was all about (again) evenhandedness. His bestowing of the second consecutive pay raise for state workers, for example, was balanced with his proposals for restructuring government and especially its hiring practices (for better or for worse, weakening current civil-service requirements).

Frank Cagle: Appointing State Appellate Justices Unconstitutional (Metro Pulse)

Huh? A special panel of the state Supreme Court has ruled that the states appellate justices are being properly elected to office by being appointed by the governor then one day facing a retention election. This in spite of the Tennessee Constitution, which says judges are to be elected by a vote of the This preposterous decision people. has maintained the status quo, though it has been subject to much criticism. But what are you going to do? It is up to the state Supreme Court to decide if something is constitutional or not. Now Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, and House Speaker Beth Harwell have signed on to a proposal to put the current appointment of judges on the ballot as a constitutional amendment to let the people decide whether they want the judges appointed or elected. the top three officeholders in the state are acknowledging that the current selection of So judges is unconstitutional? If the current selection and retention method is indeed constitutional, then there is no reason to amend the constitution. If it isnt, then the appellate judges in this state are holding office unconstitutionally. if the Legislature follows through with the idea of amending the constitution to make the So current system legal, the Legislature is admitting that the current judges have been improperly appointed.

David Cook: The crime of closing Taft (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Raise my damn taxes. Or pass the hat. If one-third of the people in Tennessee sent in one dollar each, we could do it. Cut the death penalty out of the state budget. It costs millions to fund. Do something. Just keep Taft Youth Center open. Taft Youth Center is -- literally -- the most effective youth development center in the state of Tennessee. And Gov. Bill Haslam just announced he wants to close its doors. We, perhaps more than any city in Tennessee these days, are beginning to understand the ripple effect of violence: No community is immune. And Taft transforms the lives of kids from Chattanooga. More than one-third of the 80 students at Taft come from our area. Effective teen rehabilitation is central to our city's work to reduce violence. It's as if there was a huge smallpox outbreak in our area, and the underfunded, underdog hospital doing so much to heal and help our people is now being shut down. For decades, folks at Taft have been laboring away (think they earn gobs of cash?) to make that place into something that actually works. Taft receives the toughest of the tough: juvenile offenders with the most hardened hearts and tragic rap sheets. They're teetering on the edge of the precipice, and Taft works to save their lives. Taft has the lowest recidivism rate in the state. Three percent, compared with 11 percent for every other Tennessee Department of Children's Services youth center.

Editorial: Bills are feeble fixes for defective voter ID law (News-Sentinel)

The majority leaders of both houses of the Tennessee Legislature have filed bills to expand the availability of photo identification cards, a tacit acknowledgement that the state's new law requiring the cards is flawed. The bills also could impose new costs on cash-strapped counties so their residents can comply with the controversial law that was passed last year. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, are sponsors of bills that would authorize county commissions to issue free photo ID cards. Another bill, also sponsored by Norris and McCormick, would declare identification cards issued by city and county governments to be valid for voting purposes. Other bills filed this session include one that would lower the age threshold for voting absentee on request from 65 to 60 and another that would allow state employees to keep their photo IDs for voting purposes upon retirement. Yet another would allow college and university ID cards to be used for voting. Democrats have filed a bill that would repeal the voter ID law altogether.

Editorial: Bills shatter takeover peace (Commercial Appeal)

Suburbs strike back: Annexation bills aimed at slowing Memphis' growth could cause a land-grab fight that's better avoided. After 13 years of annexation peace between Memphis and its suburban neighbors, legislation has been introduced in Nashville that could blow up the peace treaty. It's a fight that is not worth renewing and can only exacerbate the divisive atmosphere that permeates Memphis-versus-the-suburbs animosity. Three Republican legislators -- state Sen. Mark Norris and state Rep. Curry Todd, both Collierville Republicans, and state Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett -- have introduced annexation bills meant specifically for Shelby County and with a bull's-eye squarely on Memphis' back. One of the proposed bills would remove Memphis' annexation stake in an area east of Cordova to the Fayette County line and north of Collierville's existing annexation reserve area. The other bill would allow residents in any area proposed for annexation by a Shelby County municipality to vote on whether they want to join the annexing city. W e understand why suburban residents will cheer for the passage of both bills. Those residents, for a variety of reasons, don't want to be a part of Memphis. Still, those residents in the affected area -- many of whom moved in after the annexation agreements were ratified -- knew or should have known they were moving into Memphis' reserve. (SUBSCRIPTION) ###