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FRIDAY, JANUARY 13, 2012 Haslam discusses 2012 agenda (Jackson Sun) Improving the employment rate, education andg to g et this built. We can use that money now,'" he said. 2-agenda Haslam: Memphis-Shelby County schools merger on track (C. Appeal/Roberts) Gov. Bill Haslam is impressed with the "good-faith" work being done to merge city and county schools and does want legislative bills filed this session that would interfere with that effort. "The merger of these two districts incredibly difficult and fraught with all sorts of tension, racial issues and everything else," Haslam told T Commercial Appeal's editorial board Thursday. "My sense is there is a real good-faith effort being made now come up with the right plan, and I would like to see that play out before anything else happened legislatively." he acknowledged that lawmakers are free to introduce any legislation they want and vote accordingly. So legislators already have hinted at bills favoring separating into municipal school districts. As the former mayor Knoxville, Haslam said he realizes how unwelcome direction from Nashville can be. Yet in the case of the sch mer g er, "I do think in this case, we need to let this process play out for a year," he said. n-track/ (SUBSCRIPTION) Tennessee and Georgia climb in education quality ranking (TFP/Hardy) Tennessee and Georgia each moved up in a national ranking of overall education quality, with Tennessee placi 21st and Georgia seventh. But those figures came in well above other measures of statewide student succe such as the ACT college entrance exam and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test t compares states’ performance on math and reading. On Thursday, the Education Research Center released 2012 Quality Counts report, a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s public education system that ranks sta by examining several areas of education policy and student performance. The report is produced by Educat Week, a national education newspaper published by Editorial Projects in Education, a nonprofit organization bas in Bethesda, Md. In addition to providing a state-by-state analysis, this year’s report looks at how well states u information from national leaders and whether they look to countries leading in education progress. Tenness students ranked second to last on the ACT in 2011. Tennessee is one of six states that requires the ACT for students . ality-rank/ Tenn. seeks businesses for China, S. Korea trade trip (C. Appeal/Dowd) Committed to growing Tennessee's export industry, state officials were in Memphis on Thursday to promote G Bill Haslam's TNTrade initiative that targets small and midsize companies. Speaking to a couple dozen busine leaders at the Greater Memphis Chamber offices, Will Alexander, a top official with the state Department Economic and Community Development, touted an upcoming trade mission to China and South Korea as part the statewide plan that was formally launched in Memphis last month by ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty. The t " id="pdf-obj-0-3" src="pdf-obj-0-3.jpg">

FRIDAY, JANUARY 13, 2012 Haslam discusses 2012 agenda (Jackson Sun)

Improving the employment rate, education and tweaking the state employment system are just some of the thin Gov. Bill Haslam hopes to accomplish in his second year in office. Haslam met with The Jackson Sun edito board Thursday afternoon to further explain the legislative agenda his administration presented Tuesday. He unveil the state budget during his State of the State address Jan. 30. Job recruitment is the key issue Tennessee, Haslam said. "We've changed our approach to make it much more regional in nature," he sa "Focusing on existing businesses and trying to take advantage of our current assets, whether they be a megas or whatever else there is." Currently, the incentives Tennessee can give to businesses thinking of locating to t

state are called a fast-track grant, but they can only be given for infrastructure or training. Other states Tenness competes with have more flexibility with the incentives they offer, Haslam said. "Tennessee in the past has don combination of grants and then tax credits. The preferences around grants, I think, are two things: the compan (the customers) prefer them because 'We're trying to get this built. We can use that money now,'" he said.

Haslam: Memphis-Shelby County schools merger on track (C. Appeal/Roberts)

Gov. Bill Haslam is impressed with the "good-faith" work being done to merge city and county schools and does want legislative bills filed this session that would interfere with that effort. "The merger of these two districts incredibly difficult and fraught with all sorts of tension, racial issues and everything else," Haslam told T Commercial Appeal's editorial board Thursday. "My sense is there is a real good-faith effort being made now come up with the right plan, and I would like to see that play out before anything else happened legislatively." he acknowledged that lawmakers are free to introduce any legislation they want and vote accordingly. So legislators already have hinted at bills favoring separating into municipal school districts. As the former mayor Knoxville, Haslam said he realizes how unwelcome direction from Nashville can be. Yet in the case of the sch merger, "I do think in this case, we need to let this process play out for a year," he said. (SUBSCRIPTION)

Tennessee and Georgia climb in education quality ranking (TFP/Hardy)

Tennessee and Georgia each moved up in a national ranking of overall education quality, with Tennessee placi 21st and Georgia seventh. But those figures came in well above other measures of statewide student succe such as the ACT college entrance exam and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test t compares states’ performance on math and reading. On Thursday, the Education Research Center released 2012 Quality Counts report, a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s public education system that ranks sta by examining several areas of education policy and student performance. The report is produced by Educat Week, a national education newspaper published by Editorial Projects in Education, a nonprofit organization bas in Bethesda, Md. In addition to providing a state-by-state analysis, this year’s report looks at how well states u information from national leaders and whether they look to countries leading in education progress. Tenness students ranked second to last on the ACT in 2011. Tennessee is one of six states that requires the ACT for

Tenn. seeks businesses for China, S. Korea trade trip (C. Appeal/Dowd)

Committed to growing Tennessee's export industry, state officials were in Memphis on Thursday to promote G Bill Haslam's TNTrade initiative that targets small and midsize companies. Speaking to a couple dozen busine leaders at the Greater Memphis Chamber offices, Will Alexander, a top official with the state Department Economic and Community Development, touted an upcoming trade mission to China and South Korea as part the statewide plan that was formally launched in Memphis last month by ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty. The t

which will take place from April 15-21 and include stops in Beijing, Shenzhen and Seoul, is open to as many as owners of small and midsize businesses whose companies specialize in medical devices or health care. Hage along with a delegation of state officials, will accompany participants on the trip. Costs of the trip -- exclud airfare to and from China and some meals -- will be covered by the program. Meetings with Chinese and So Korean businesses that are interested in Tennessee exports will be prearranged. (SUB)

Haslam says separate governing board for UM 'makes sense' (TFP/Locker)

Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that he's trying to figure out how to carve out a separate governing board for t

University of Memphis -- with authority to hire and fire the university's president -- in a way that's fair to other lar Tennessee Board of Regents schools. The governor said he's in discussions about how to accomplish the longti goals of the U of M's supporters and advocates for greater autonomy but also set up guidelines for how ot schools might follow suit. He talked about the concept of a UofM board in response to questions in a meeting w The Commercial Appeal's editorial board, where he discussed details of the broad legislative agenda he present to state lawmakers on Tuesday. "I do think that makes sense for the University of Memphis to have their o board," the governor said. "The University of Memphis has a board of advisers that is really strong and brings a

to the

table. ...

What I have to figure out is how to do that in context with the rest of the Tennessee Board


UM Lambuth campus deed transfer celebrated with ceremonial raising of flag (JS)

University of Memphis Lambuth students Eyan and Ivon Wuchina were glad Thursday to be back on the camp they once called home. The twin brothers watched as state and local officials raised the University of Memphis fl in the historic quadrangle on the former Lambuth University campus. "We transferred back from Belmont," s

Eyan Wuchina, 21, who is the elder twin by two minutes. The brothers are juniors and communications majo "We came back when they started offering classes that fit into what we want to do," Eyan said. "And we miss this place," Ivon added. They are among more than 400 students registered for classes in the spring semest according to U of M Lambuth campus official Dan Lattimore. The flag-raising ceremony was held on Thursday commemorate the deed transfer from the Lambuth University board of directors to the state of Tennessee to benefit of the University of Memphis. Gov. Bill Haslam, U of M President Shirley Raines and U.S. Rep. Steph Fincher, R-Frog Jump, spoke prior to the flag-raising ceremony in the Womack Chapel.

Greeneville expansion brings dozens of new jobs (WVLT-TV Knoxville)

J&J Warehousing & Storage, Inc. plans to create dozens of new jobs over the next three, the company announc on Thursday. Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Commissioner Bill Hagerty joined local a

company officials to announce the expansion. “When our existing Tennessee industries expand, they are pav the way for us to reach our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs, and I appla J&J Warehousing for their additional investment in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “Working with our partners in Gree County, we are excited that J&J Warehousing’s expansion is becoming a reality,” Hagerty added. The compa was able to expand after another Greeneville company outsourced its welding operations to J&J Warehousi rather than send the jobs overseas. J&J President Jerry Fortner said, “We’re very pleased to be able to assis this effort, and we really appreciate the state of Tennessee in making this partnership possible."

Greeneville business expanding (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

The expansion of a Greene County business will bring 37 new jobs over the next three years. J&J Warehousing Storage, Inc. has announced plans to expand their operation in Greeneville. The company manufactures a assembles welded components for the automotive industry. "When our existing Tennessee industries expa they are paving the way for us to reach our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high qua jobs, and I applaud J&J Warehousing for their additional investment in Tennessee," said Tennessee Governor Haslam. "Existing industries are the backbone of our state's economy and account for the vast majority of all jo created in our great state." The expansion is a result of another Greeneville, Tenn. company outsourcing welding operations to J&J Warehousing instead of choosing an out of state or country provider and keeping

Tennessee to Study Workers’ Compensation System (Insurance Journal)

Tennessee state officials, business groups, labor leaders and legal experts are lining up to study the stat workers’ compensation system, although it may be 2013 before any legislative deals are struck. Tennessee G Bill Haslam has decided that for now, the state legislature is best served by continuing to study the worke compensation as part of his goal to make the state more business-friendly. And for now lawmakers and Lt. G Ron Ramsey are going along with Haslam. Haslam spokesperson Yvette Martinez in a statement said, “T

governor and administrative officials continue to discuss workers’ compensation issues with business lead across the state. He believes that there are things we can look at improving on the administrative side of t program verses legislatively at this time.” The Tennessee General Assembly meets the second Tuesday January for a 15-day organizational period. It then can meet 90 legislative days over a two-year assembly peri The House Republican Small Business Task Force, which held a round of hearings on workers’ compensation 2011, has singled out a number of issues for potential consideration.

TEA officials express concern over Haslam education proposals (Times-News)

Tennessee Education Association officials have some strong concerns over Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to ea grades K-12 class size limits. The same goes for his plan to move teacher compensation away from educati levels and years of service, instead shifting it to evaluation results. However, both proposals would be permiss — not mandatory — for local school systems. And Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said wouldn’t propose any such changes without going through collaborative conferencing — which replaced collect bargaining — with the Sullivan County Education Association and the Professional Educators of Sullivan Coun local units of the TEA and Professional Educators of Tennessee. “We would have a lot of conversations with t teacher associations through collaborative conferencing,” Yennie said. “I wouldn’t run out and make chang without talking with the teachers.” SCEA President Athena Warren said that’s why she’s not too worried about t proposal as it might affect Sullivan County. “They (administration officials) are wanting to give control to the lo systems,” Warren said. “After I read that (Haslam’s legislative proposal), I’m glad I work in Sullivan County.

Yennie does do his best to make things equitable and fair,” Warren said. “If the decision is in our hands (in Sulliv County), we’ll do what’s best for the students of Sullivan County.”

Springfield woman faces more TennCare fraud charges (Tennessean)

A Springfield woman was charged in Sumner County with multiple charges related to obtaining prescription p illegally just weeks after being charged with TennCare fraud, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigati Ann Margaret Choate, 30, was indicted by the Sumner County Grand Jury on 11 counts of obtaining drugs

fraud, nine counts of forgery and one count of identity theft. Choate is accused of stealing prescription pads from Nashville doctor’s office at which she worked between December 2010 and May 2011. She allegedly used tho pads to write herself multiple prescriptions for Lortab, a painkiller, which were filled at a White House pharma according to the TBI. Choate also faces three additional counts of TennCare Fraud. She is currently free fr Sumner County Jail on a $7,500 bond. She is already facing two counts of TennCare fraud after being arrested charged in Robertson County in November. In those incidents, she is accused of using forged prescriptions obtain painkillers paid for with TennCare benefits, according to the Tennessee Office of the Inspector General.

TN business tax revenue up in December (Associated Press)

Tennessee revenue collections in December were $965.7 million, $123 million more than the budgeted estima but the state finance commissioner said revenue in future months may not show the same growth. Finance a Administration commissioner Mark Emkes said in a news release that business tax collections were $114.5 mill above the budgeted estimate in December. But he said typically a quarter of all franchise and excise tax collectio are realized in the month of April, so future months could be negatively impacted. State tax collections were $1 million more than the estimate for December and the year-to-date growth rate is 6.29 percent. Emkes also s while sales tax revenues reflect renewed consumer confidence, Tennessee is still not back to pre-2008 collect levels on sales taxes.

State says new bald eagle nests showing up (Associated Press)

State wildlife officials say new bald eagle nests are showing up across the state, including one within the city Franklin. Additionally, they say there are many other nests that may have been around for years that are included in the statewide database. To keep up, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is looking for ne across the state. It's part of a comprehensive nest monitoring program to estimate population size and growth the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Officials say birds move nests, which may cause gaps in monitoring. Nests m be reported to Scott Somershoe at 615-781-6653.

If you see bald eagle nest, TN asks for a call (Tennessean/Paine)

TWRA wants reports on eagle nests statewide Bald eagle nest sites in Tennessee are sought in a survey be taken this year by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The birds, known to have raised young in Cheatha Williamson and several other Middle Tennessee counties, can change nest sites, and many new nests showing up each year, said Scott Somershoe, TWRA ornithologist. Current information will help monitor the bir he said. The new survey, intended to document active nesting sites, is part of a program to help the U.S. Fish a Wildlife Service estimate the size of the eagle population and and how it’s faring. If you have questions or know any bald eagle nests, contact Somershoe at 615-781-6653 or .

Tennessee records fewest traffic deaths since 1963 (Times Free-Press/Sher)

Tennessee recorded the fewest traffic deaths in 48 years during 2011, according to preliminary figures releas

Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. There were 947 traffic-related dea last year on Tennessee roads. It was the lowest number of recorded fatalities since 941 in 1963. The 2011 dip w the third time in 48 years that crash-related deaths dipped below 1,000. Since 2006, fatalities have dropped 2 percent with truck-related fatalities falling 34.5 percent. Bicyclist deaths fell 28.6 percent. Motorcycle dea dropped 19.1 percent and the number of pedestrians killed fell 4.5 percent. Department officials say 2011 arre of impaired drivers rose 39 percent over 2010. Drunken driving deaths dropped 31.6 percent from 2006 to 20 But officials said in their news release that seat belt usage remains a "major concern." While data indicates safe belt usage was 87.4 percent in 2011, 56.3 percent of people who died in vehicle crashes did not buckle up.

Retrial dates set in Knoxville torture-slayings (Associated Press)

A special judge in Knoxville set dates for four murder retrials that he ordered in response to the trial judge be addicted to pain pills. Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood on Thursday set June 11 for the retrial of Lemaricus Davids Davidson was sentenced to death as the alleged ringleader among the defendants convicted in the 2007 tortu slayings of a young Knoxville couple, Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. The Knoxville News Senti reported that Blackwood said juries for all retrials will be selected from other yet-to-be determined counti ( ) Blackwood also set trials Aug. 27 for Letalvis Cobbins, Oct. 22 for George Thomas and N 12 for Vanessa Coleman. Richard Baumgartner resigned from the bench after pleading guilty to official miscond and admitting his addiction. He received a two-year suspended sentence.

GOP Leaders Eating Their Words? Now Say They’ll Support Food-Tax Cut (TNR)

State lawmakers have yet to pick through Gov. Bill Haslam’s list of priorities going into the legislative session, so far many favor his plan to ever-so-slightly cut the food tax. That group of fans includes Republicans who not long ago scoffed at the idea of taxing groceries at a lower rate. “I think it’s great. It’s a way for all Tennesseans be able to participate in a tax cut,” said Rep. Gerald McCormick, the House Republican Leader. Back in Augu when Democrats proposed using higher-than-expected sales tax revenues to offset a grocery-tax cut, McCorm labeled the idea “irresponsible.” But McCormick stood by his earlier assessment Wednesday, telling TNReport still believes the Democrats’ tax-cut proposal over the summer was a “political ploy.” “I thought it was irresponsib considering that we were mired in a recession, in a deep recession. The economy is recovering now, and I th

that’s reflected in our sales tax numbers. So it’s become a possibility, whereas six months ago I think it was sim political posturing on the part of the Democrats,” said McCormick.

Tenn. House approves GOP redistricting plan (Associated Press/Schelzig)

The state House on Thursday approved a Republican plan to redraw the chamber's 99 districts, overrid Democrats' objections that it placed five African-American incumbents into three seats, ensuring that at least two them would be forced out of office. The chamber voted 67-25 to approve the map that ultimately included chang from the original map to spare three other Democrats from having to face other incumbents this year. Hou Speaker Beth Harwell praised the final result as representing that fellow Republicans had "drawn these lines fai and that there's proper representation for each district." Democrats, who had several proposals to redraw t Republican maps rejected on the House floor, said they wouldn't rule out a legal challenge. "We're going to talk the Democratic Party, we're' going to talk to our Black Caucus and to the different interested parties, and w

make that decisions," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville. Turner said he was o of seven Democrats who voted for final version as part of a deal with Republican leaders to step back from plans draw Democratic Reps. Mike Stewart and Sherry Jones into the same Nashville district, and to put Democra Rep. Eddie Bass of Prospect into the same seat as Republican Rep. Vance Dennis of Savannah.

1-2-3, Go! Redistricting Maps Advance (TN Report)

Tweaks to the lines on redrawn Democratic districts in the state House came down to something like a game Rock-Paper-Scissors. House lawmakers approved the new maps 67-25-3 Thursday. Speaker Beth Harwell s she had politely encouraged Democrats to throw some votes her party’s way for the sake of bipartisans appearances. “I said to (Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner), ‘If we are making these concessions for so of your members, I would appreciate votes from your caucus,’” she said. That left the #1 and #2 Democrats figure out who would make Harwell feel appreciated. “I’d like to think it was a little punitive, maybe, because t discussions were pretty hot and heavy,” Turner, of Old Hickory, said. … “I thought it was worth that to save couple of our members.” Turner threw down rock to Leader Craig Fitzhugh’s paper in their session to make s

the speaker got at least one leadership vote from their side. Turner was one of six Democrats who voted in favor the Republican-drawn maps, while Fitzhugh toed the party line.

TN House passes redistricting plan (Tennessean/Sisk)

The state House of Representatives cleared a redistricting plan Thursday after Republicans agreed to a f changes, including one that will separate a pair of Nashville Democrats into their own districts. Lawmakers vot mainly along party lines to accept a largely Republican plan that reconfigures all 99 House districts, as well a proposal to redraw the borders of Tennessee’s nine congressional districts. Debate on the House floor took a li more than an hour, as Democrats acquiesced to plans that they could have stalled but could not have stopp

“We understand to the victor go the spoils,” said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley. “We did not ha the votes, and we knew that, and we just tried to make the best of the situation.” The vote sets the field for t legislature to complete its redistricting work by the end of the week, but that might not be the final battle over t issue. Democrats have not ruled out challenging the plans in court under the federal Voting Rights Act, wh requires states to draw district lines that encourage minority representation. Democrats offered several alternat proposals this week that they said would have increased the minority vote in the legislature. Republica dismissed them swiftly, saying that none was better than their plan, and Democrats said litigation remains option.

House OKs plan merging districts of Brown and Favors (Times Free-Press/Sher)

The state House on Thursday approved a Republican redistricting plan that draws two black Chattanoo Democrats into the same district and does the same to two black lawmakers from Memphis. Democrats fought t measure, which redraws all 99 House districts, but it passed on a 67-25 vote with the support of seven Democra including three black lawmakers from West Tennessee. It now goes to the Senate. The House also approved congressional redistricting plan that splits Bradley County between the 3rd and 4th Congressional Distric Regarding the House redistricting plan, Republican Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, of Chattanooga, said

the end, we worked with [Democrats] on some things and we had a more bipartisan vote than otherwis Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, of Nashville, who voted with Republicans as part of the agreeme said Republicans agreed to changes for three Democrats, all of them white, but it remains to be seen whethe

lawsuit will be filed. Democrats filed an array of amendments seeking to redraw the entire plan and create anot district containing a majority of black residents in Memphis. All were voted down easily.

State House Passes New Districts for Self, Congress (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

It took only an hour this afternoon for the Republican majority in the Tennessee House of Representatives approve some of the new voting lines for the next decade of elections. The House passed a new congressio map, and one for its own chamber. Democratic leaders say they were able to win a few concessions from th GOP counterparts. For instance, they were able to head off a plan that would have made Nashville’s Sherry Jon and Mike Stewart run against each other. For the most part, Demcratic Caucus Chairman Craig Fitzhugh appear to shrug off the short time his party had to look at the plan. “We understand to the victors go the spoils, and understand that this is an ‘inside baseball’ process that probably people in this building probably care more ab on the surface than people across the state do, but the problem that we had with it, was, the people across t state didn’t have the opportunity to care about it.” The deal with the Republicans called for either Fitzhugh House Democratic Leader Mike Turner to vote for the plan. The two played rock, paper, scissors to decide w would sign on – Turner lost:

On New District, Cooper Says Balance Is Priority (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

The state House of Representatives agreed today on new lines for Tennessee’s Congressional districts. But Democrat, who’s not part of the redistricting process, says he’s glad to see the county whole again. “I try to hav balanced outlook. I’m proud to be a Democrat but I want to get along and represent everybody regardless whether they’re Democrat, Republican or Independent. Remember, most people today really don’t strongly belo to either political party.” State lawmakers still have to meet tomorrow to finalize the changes, which are based new census data.

Lines Still Blurred for Memphis Redistricting (Memphis Daily News)

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. is expressing concern over representation for the city of Memphis in the th levels of redistricting plans now pending – county, state and federal. Wharton wasn’t specific about his concer but he told the Memphis Kiwanis Club Wednesday, Jan. 11, that he will have an announcement soon on the iss

“I’m not going to specify,” Wharton said after his remarks to the group. “But I am concerned and gravely so ab how the current steps have diminished the voice of the city. There will be a precise action we are takin Wharton’s comment came as plans for redrawing the district lines of the Tennessee state Senate were amend this week by the Republican majority to completely eliminate the district of Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle Memphis. The first version of the proposal had paired Kyle in the same redrawn district as Germanto Republican Brian Kelsey and it also would have eliminated the district of Memphis Democrat Reginald Tate. T changed when it became apparent that the Kyle-Kelsey matchup would have meant a renumbering of the n district and no incumbent.

Amendment would keep Maury Co. in 4th District (Columbia Daily Herald)

A Democratic state senator who intends to run for the 4th Congressional District seat has filed an amendment t would keep a Republican proposal from moving part of Maury County out of that district. Eric Stewart Winchester, whose 14th State Senate District includes Coffee, Franklin and four other counties, said he filed t amendment Thursday afternoon. The Senate will take up Congressional redistricting in its Friday session passed, Stewart’s legislation would keep Maury County entirely in the 4th Congressional District, which is n represented by Republican Scott DesJarlais. Under the GOP plan, the northwestern portion of Maury Cou would be moved into the 7th District, which is represented by Republican Marsha Blackburn. Stewart said agrees with local officials, such as Maury County Mayor Jim Bailey, who are concerned the proposed redistricti could result in a weakening of the county’s influence in Washington, especially when its two congressm disagreed on an issue. “I think it’s pretty important for a fast-growing community like Maury County to have t one voice in Congress and somebody that’s willing to go up there and fight for them,” Stewart said. The ex location of the proposed district boundary through Maury County has not been clarified, but Stewart speculat that even the city of Columbia might be split.

Lawmakers push science bldg. (Daily News Journal)

Tracy expects funding OK in Legislature State Sen. Jim Tracy is predicting MTSU's science building will be fund this session, as lawmakers sponsor legislation to construct it amid concerns the university will be required provide matching funds. Tracy said Thursday he believes he has enough legislative backing to fund the project t year. "Everyone has been working extremely hard for a long time in support of a new MTSU science buildin

Tracy said in a written statement. "We are not sure at this point exactly how everything will be funded, bu anticipate support in the General Assembly to get this completed this year." Tracy, a Shelbyville Republican w represents the majority of Rutherford County, filed legislation this week to fully fund the planning, desi construction and equipping of an MTSU science building. The measure is sponsored in the House by Rep. Cr Fitzhugh, a Democrat from Ripley in West Tennessee. Also this week, state Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, a Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, filed a bill calling for the Legislature to appropriate $130 million to the Tenness Board of Regents to construct a science building at the university. Ketron said Thursday he sponsored the bill insurance that the MTSU building will be funded." Tracy is a co-prime sponsor of the bill.

Local politicians cautiously optimistic on state revenue (Crossville Chronicle)

As legislators return to Nashville for the 107th session of the Tennessee General Assembly, they're going w some good news on the state's finances. Tax revenues have come in slightly higher than projected and the st

has a healthy rainy day fund. But, the state will still be looking to trim the budget by about five percent to shore the state's financial position, take care of legislated mandates and provide security as the federal governm continues to look at spending cuts. "We don't know what will happen to the federal funds," state Sen. Charlo Burks told the crowd at the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast Mond "We hope we're not devastated. We're taking some precautions. But our state's in a lot better shape than mo The state has about $328 million in its rainy day fund, Burks said, with another $255 million in TennCare reserv Overall revenue collections are up 4.8 percent over 2010, while sales tax has grown 5.9 percent. "We're trying set a budget that is logical and reasonable," said state Rep. Cameron Sexton. "While it might seem we're ahe the problem is the mandates we have to pay for, such as TennCare and the department of corrections. With tho mandates, the extra money is gone."

Bill affecting transgender use of restrooms, dress rooms loses sponsor (TFP/Sher

Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, on Thursday withdrew the Senate version of a controversial House measure requir transgender people to use public bathrooms and dressing rooms that match their birth gender. Watson, who chairman of the Hamilton County legislative delegation, said he sponsored the bill as a standard courtesy to lo House members. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga. “I understand Rep. Floy passion about the issue, but we have more pressing issues before us that we need to focus our attention on a we don’t need to get sidetracked,” Watson said. Floyd said earlier Thursday he introduced the bill after reading news story about a Texas woman who said she was fired from Macy’s after stopping a male teen dressed a

woman from using a dressing room. “It could happen here,” Floyd said. “I believe if I was standing at a dress room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t car he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and th stomp him dry. “Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk,” he said. “ cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he’s a wom and he’s a man and wants to try on women’s clothes, let him take them into the men’s bathroom or dressing roo The bill would charge violators with a misdemeanor carrying a $50 fine.

Shipley Wants TBI to Release Records in Probe of Lawmakers (TN Report)

State Rep. Tony Shipley said he plans to push for a House committee to subpoena the Tennessee Bureau Investigation’s files in the recently concluded inquiry into legislative actions by Shipley and Rep. Dale Ford. Ship and Ford were subjects of a TBI probe into whether they had exerted improper influence over a state nursing bo that had disciplined three nurses from their East Tennessee area. This week Davidson County District Attorn General Torry Johnson announced that he had found no evidence of any crime and would not pursue charg

against the two lawmakers. Shipley, R-Kingsport, said he would use the House Government Operatio Committee, on which he serves as secretary, to seek the files. He would need the support of a majority of t members, and Shipley said he would try to enlist one of them to introduce the matter. But lawyers for t committee cast doubt on the likelihood of getting the records. Legislative subpoenas are rare, they said, and w TBI pushback the matter could end up in court before any documents were released. TBI files are among the m secretive documents in Tennessee.

Fleischmann talks FEMA money and redistricting with Bradley leaders (TFP/Carro

More than eight months after a tornado devastated Bradley County, the local government still is awaiting clean money from Uncle Sam. “Any FEMA people in the room today?” Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis ask during a transportation and infrastructure roundtable hosted by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. Nobo said anything, so Davis leaned across a crowded boardroom table and plowed ahead, simultaneously thanking Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance and wondering where the agency’s reimbursement w “I’ll really love them when I get a check,” he said. FEMA promised 90 percent reimbursement to local governme that helped with debris removal, Davis said. Workers cleared the last of the damaged trees, houses and ot debris in July, but representatives from Bradley County, Cleveland and its affiliated utility companies said FE still hasn’t repaid up to $10 million. “I didn’t know anything about the funding issues,” Fleischmann said from head of the table. He later promised to look into the situation. The who’s-in-charge FEMA discussion took greater significance when Fleischmann brought up the redistricting process to audible sighs. Under a p approved Thursday by the Tennessee House, Bradley County is split between the 3rd and 4th congressio districts.

Cooper talks online sales taxes, other issues (Nashville Business Journal)

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper is watching how online sales tax legislation shapes up in the House of Representativ before weighing in on a debate that has put Tennessee in the national spotlight. In a wide-ranging talk t included federal budget woes and local issues, Cooper, D-Nashville, said he agrees that brick-and-mortar retail are at an unfair advantage in the absence of online retailers like having to collect sales tax. H sales taxes make Tennessee “particularly vulnerable,” but he’s studying proposals by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexand R-Tenn., and others before making his decision. “It’s one of those things — it’s still cooking,” he said of legislati

on the issue. Various proposals have circulated over the years in both the House and Senate to deal with the f that most online shoppers don’t report purchases — as required by law — for taxing purposes. The Nashv Business Journal first reported Alexander’s intentions, with a bill that would create a way for states to requ collection, but not mandate a new sales tax.

Bradley awaits Veterans Admin’s 2012 construction priority list (TFP/Higgins)

The Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council is waiting anxiously to hear the Veterans Administration’s n construction priority list for 2012. This time last year the list was out and Montgomery County/Clarksville rank high on the list with Bradley County close behind. “It’s suppose to be on the secretary’s desk at the VA Washington waiting on his signature,” County Veterans Affairs Director Larry McDaris told the council Thursd Veterans Affairs Officer Joe Davis, a member of the Tennessee State Veterans Homes Board, said he has be assured Montgomery County will be at the top of the new list and Bradley not far behind. “Tennessee can o build one at a time,’’ Davis said. County Commissioner Mark Hall, council co-chairman, said, “Maybe we sho

send a letter respectfully asking for the list.” The local Veterans Services Office will be sending that letter to t state’s senators and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann. Last year Bradley ranked 47th and Montgomery County 42 “A lot of critical decisions we make will be impacted by that,” said co-chairman Cid Heidel. Meanwhile, Thomps Engineering of Chattanooga has begun a study of the South Cleveland site already secured for a home. That w is being paid for from a $60,000 grant awarded the Veterans Services Office from Bradley County’s Heal Community Initiative. The HCI distributes grants from investment income made from the sale of the county hosp in 2005. local

ADHD med shortage puts squeeze on parents (Tennessean/Wilemon)

Jason Greene can easily predict which customers ask for Ritalin or Adderall. Their faces are new to him, but th anxious looks have become familiar. “The parents do get a little rattled sometimes when they are trying to h

their children,” said Greene, a pharmacist at Reeves-Sain Drug Store in Murfreesboro. The independent pharma has picked up new customers due to a shortage of ADHD medicines that has parents scurrying from drug store

drug store as if competing in a poker run. This week he ran out of the quick-release version of the pills, and h not sure when he can get them back in stock. Rolling shortages of ADHD medications have been occurri nationwide for six months, and the situation is getting worse. Almost half of people who need the medicines — percent as of Thursday morning — have reported difficulty getting their prescriptions filled, according to an ongoi survey by Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or CHADD. The organization attribu the kink in the pipeline to manufacturing restrictions set by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. The stimulants the most commonly prescribed — and often the cheapest — treatments for the disorder are controlled substanc so the DEA sets limits. Each manufacturer is rationed a set amount of the stimulant ingredients in the medicin The drugs are often abused by people seeking a speed rush or college students using them to cram for exam Demand is also on the rise because more children are being diagnosed with ADHD.

At last, a state budget year when the sky is not falling (Stateline)

During the depths of the Great Recession, states had to do many unsavory things to balance their budgets. few things left a more bitter taste than Arizona’s decision to sell off the office space of its state Capitol complex helped lawmakers close a gap in one year’s budget, even though it meant taxpayers would essentially have to p rent on the property for the next two decades. Now, Arizona’s budget outlook is showing some improvement:

the first time since 2006, the state finished its last fiscal year with a surplus, which came as a surprise to st financial forecasters. Governor Jan Brewer told lawmakers where she wants to spend some of the $600 mill windfall: buying back the state’s buildings from its landlords. “Together,” the Republican said during her state of t state speech on Monday, “we can celebrate the burning of that mortgage.” No one is saying Arizona’s boom da are back. Its 8.7 percent unemployment rate is slightly higher than the national average and its housing industry still struggling. Roughly $1 billion of Arizona’s annual revenue will disappear next year when a temporary sales

expires, an event lawmakers are calling “the cliff.” But for the first time in five years, the legislature is in a positi to put money toward its top priorities rather than cut, cut, cut.

More States Decide to 'Buy Veteran' (Wall Street Journal)

After two deployments in Iraq, U.S. Army reservist Josh Cuddy returned to New Brighton, Pa., to open a gourm waffle restaurant. Business is good, the 33-year-old veteran says, and he hopes it might get better: His state a nearby Pittsburgh are trying to boost contracts awarded to small businesses owned by veterans. If governm officials need catering, Mr. Cuddy is ready to serve. More states and local governments are setting aside money buy goods and services from veteran-owned businesses. The movement has gathered steam as vets ha returned from Iraq and Afghanistan to growing unemployment in their ranks. Currently, 23 states offer some type preferential treatment for businesses owned by veterans, according to the National Veteran-Owned Busine Association, an advocacy group. Nine have enacted the legislation since 2009, when veterans started a lobby push for the benefit, said Matthew Pavelek, spokesman for the group. Some states, like Illinois, set an annual g of 3% of all contracts for businesses owned by veterans. Others, like Pennsylvania, encourage governm agencies to increase contracting with veteran-owned businesses, without establishing a target. This month, Haw Republicans are expected to introduce a bill that would set aside 3%, or roughly $33 million, of the state's spendi for veteran-owned businesses each year. "Veterans more than anyone else have really sacrificed for their countr

said state Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson, one of the bill's sponsors. "If there was a group to give a preference f there are very few others that are as compelling."


Music City Center loses two conventions (Nashville Business Journal)

Earlier this week, the Nashville Convention & Visitor’s Bureau announced a milestone: The group had book more than 600,000 room nights for the Music City Center. In a few weeks, you might hear the exact sa announcement again. The 1.2 million-square-foot Music City Center is slated to open in April 2013, a fate that now cost downtown Nashville two conventions and 19,000 room nights that were slated to hold their events bef that opening date. The departures would equate to a loss of nearly $5.6 million in estimated visitor spendi based on projections in a 2009 Music City Center economic impact analysis. CVB President Butch Spyridon s

his group booked those conventions before construction plans were final, leaving a two-month gap between t center's opening and the first groups' scheduled meetings. “There was strong reason to believe and good intenti

to make up that ground,” Spyridon said of the lag. Construction of the center, he underscored, is still on time. T remaining gap, however, means that both the American Trucking Association and the Hearth Patio & Barbec Association could relocate their 2013 conventions, which totaled more than 19,000 room nights. Those rooms w allocated to various downtown hotel properties because of the January 2014 opening of the 800-room Omni Ho An email sent late Thursday afternoon informed area hotels to release the held rooms.

Music City Center loses at least 2 conventions (Tennessean/Marsteller)

As many as three groups that had planned to be among the first to use Nashville’s Music City Center conventi hall when it opens in 2013 will meet elsewhere because of concerns the massive building may not be ready their meeting dates. The Southern Baptist Convention has moved its June 2013 annual meeting from the Mu City Center, while the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association will do the same with its March convention t same year, said Butch Spyridon, the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau president. A third group — t American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council — also may be pulling out of the und construction Music City Center in March 2013, though there were conflicting reports about its intentions Thursd night. Spyridon said the 3,000-member trucking meeting is lost. But a spokesman for the trucking association s later Thursday it plans on staying put. “We are not looking to move,” spokesman Sean McNally said. “We committed to March 2013. We are committed to that venue and those dates.” The Southern Baptist Convent would have attracted at estimated 12,000 attendees and the barbecue group would have brought 10,000 peop “It’s disappointing but not devastating,” Spyridon said of the groups’ altered plans. The trucking and barbec events potentially would generate an estimated $5.3 milllion in combined visitor spending, Spyridon said. T potential economic impact of the Baptist meeting was not immediately available.

Dr. Nita Shumaker chosen as new Erlanger Health System trustee (TFP/Martin)

After weeks of delay in naming a replacement trustee to the board that oversees Erlanger Health System, t Chattanooga City Council approved the appointment one day after the board narrowly voted to give its outgo CEO a hefty severance package. Dr. Nita Shumaker, who was recommended by the Chattanooga-Hamilt County Medical Society, will replace Dr. Charles Longer on Erlanger's board of trustees. Longer's eight-year s ended Nov. 1, but trustees serve until their replacements are appointed. The medical society's one appointment the 11-member board also must be approved by the county and city. The society's executive director, Rae You Bond, met with Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield in early Novem to make the society's recommendation, according to newspaper archives. The county approved Shumaker on N 16. In mid-December, Littlefield said he would place the approval on the council agenda after the hospital bo settled issues with former Erlanger CEO Jim Brexler. Bond said she disagreed with the mayor's decision. Erlan announced Brexler's retirement on Nov. 18. Trustees haggled for weeks whether to approve a $728,000 severan

package for Brexler, whose last day was Dec. 31. They initially rejected the package in a 4-4 vote, but on Mond morning approved it 5-4.

1,100 jobs lost in Food Lion closings in Tennessee (Associated Press)

The closing of 25 Food Lion grocery stores in Tennessee and greatly reducing operations at a distribution cente Clinton is displacing about 1,100 workers. Food Lion spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown said a severan

package is being offered to eligible employees affected by the parent company's decision to close underperformi stores. Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize said Thursday it is cutting almost 5,000 jobs in the United States a closes some Food Lion, Bloom and Bottom Dollar Food stores within the next 30 days. Phillips-Brown said Food Lion stores with about 1,300 employees in Tennessee will continue operating. The closings in Tenness include some stores in the Chattanooga area, Cleveland, Knoxville, Clinton, Crossville, Maryville, Morristo Sevierville, Clarksville, Hendersonville, Lewisburg, Murfreesboro, Old Hickory, Smyrna, Sparta, Greeneville a Johnson City.

Hundreds to lose jobs in Food Lion cuts (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/O’Neil)

When Spike Brackett went to bed Wednesday night, he still had a job. When he woke up Thursday morning, found out he didn't. Brackett is part of a Food Lion product reset team responsible for changing store layouts. had been particularly busy since the grocer started a massive rebranding effort in May. "Up until this point we h

been busting butt," he said. "It was not a good way to start a day." Food Lion will shut down more than two-thirds its area supermarkets by mid-February as the grocer tries to consolidate and update its brand. The Salisbury, N. based grocery chain announced Thursday it will shut down 113 underperforming stores across the South, includ 13 in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Taking into account the entire Southeast Tennessee a Northwest Georgia area, as many as 540 workers will move from the checkout line to the unemployment line. T company will continue to operate stores in East Ridge and Cleveland in Tennessee and in Chickamau Ringgold, Dalton and Rocky Face in Georgia but will withdraw completely from Publix-dominated Florida. counting Jacksonville, Fla., Chattanooga is losing more Food Lion stores than any other city, with seven. Food L said 4,900 employees, including 1,100 in Tennessee, will lose their jobs from the store closings. Some of tho workers, both fulltime and parttime, will be eligible for severance packages. Add shoppers who depend on Fo Lion to the list of affected Chattanoogans and the loss of the stores hurts the area.

Mayors urge Electrolux to bump up tally of local, minority workers (CA/Maki)

A report set for Tuesday will update local elected officials about suppliers and local and minority participation in t Electrolux project. "There will be a substantial progress to report," Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said Thursd following a meeting with Electrolux officials, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, Electrolux's general contractor a local economic development officials. "We're going to see this through to the end so everybody benefits," Lutt said. The closed-door meeting at county offices Downtown was called after members of the Memphis City Cou and Shelby County Commission complained about the Electrolux contract. The city and county committed at le $40 million worth of incentives to the project. Total subsidies for the new kitchen-appliance factory in Southw Memphis, including state and federal money, as well as long-term tax breaks, are expected to surpass $18 million. The contract did not mandate local or minority participation, and a payment-in-lieu-of-tax deal valued roughly $33.9 million exempted Electrolux from diversity requirements that have been a condition for ot companies receiving local tax breaks. In December, Electrolux announced Yates & Sons of Philadelphia, Miss., general contractor on the project, which is being built in Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park, near the Nucor steel m (SUB)

Phil Bredesen's solar firm to build $90M array in Georgia (Tennessean/Williams)

Solar project has ties to land owned by music executive Steve Ivey The family farm of Nashville songwriter a music executive Steve Ivey would become the largest solar-power production site in Georgia under a p announced Thursday by Ivey and a company led by former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen and two former st department heads. A $90 million, large-scale solar-power array on the Ivey farm near Athens, Ga., would produ 30 megawatts of electricity that would be sold to Georgia Power Co. under a deal expected to get final approval the Georgia Public Service Commission next week, said Ivey, who also owns IMI, a Music Row publishing a production house. “The farm has been in my family since 1935,” Ivey said. “I got the idea for the solar project wh

I was trying to figure out a new way to heat water at my house in Brentwood. I’m in the music business and v technology-minded, and got locked into solar several years ago,” he said. Gov. started firm with ex-cabi members Bredesen’s Silicon Ranch Corp., a relatively new startup, has been part of the Georgia project only sin last month. Silicon Ranch Corp. was started in late 2010 by Bredesen and the two members of his form administration.

TN school adds new anti-cyber bullying to new policy (Associated Press)

Maryville schools update anti-bullying policy The Maryville City School board has revised its anti-bullying policy reflect changes in state law. The measure passed on first reading Tuesday updates the policy to include cy bullying — the use of telephone, Internet or email intimidation. Director of Schools Stephanie Thompson said t change expands the policy beyond school property and enforcing it will require parents' involvement, according The Daily Times. Bullying is defined as an act that interferes with students' educational benefits, opportunities

performance. It's also an act that creates a hostile environment for students. The school board will vote on t second and final reading in February.

Kansas: Gov. Brownback outlines sweeping tax plan (Kansas City Star)

An eager and enthusiastic Gov. Sam Brownback laid out an ambitious agenda for the Kansas Legislature Wednesday night that includes a plan to cut the income tax rate for roughly 1.6 million Kansans. However, nea two-dozen tax deductions, including the one for home mortgage interest, would go away. Saying he’s “bullish” Kansas, the Republican governor outlined plans to develop a new school financing proposal, cure an ail pension system for state employees and corral rising Medicaid costs. “That’s a lot to accomplish,” Brownback t state lawmakers from the House chamber. “Can we get it done? Of course we can.” For the first time, Brownba

revealed his plans to make over the state tax code in an attempt to make it “fairer, flatter and simpler.” Describ as “close to revenue neutral,” the governor’s proposal calls for reducing the income tax rate for households a eliminating income taxes on about 191,000 small businesses. The plan, which got mixed reviews from lawmake would: Cut the income tax rate to 3 percent for individual income under $15,000, or $30,000 for married taxpay filing jointly. The tax rate is now 3.5 percent.

Maryland: O’Malley springs sales-tax surprise on assembly (Washington Times)

Gov. Martin O'Malley surprised Maryland lawmakers Wednesday by suggesting an increase in the state sales t jump-starting the 2012 General Assembly on what was expected to be a largely ceremonial first day. Mr. O'Mal suggested increasing the tax from 6 percent to 7 percent as an alternative to a 15-cent increase in the gas tax t has been widely discussed by legislators but poorly received by many residents. Democratic leaders have s they are likely to raise taxes this session to help pay for roads, schools and other infrastructure projec

Lawmakers last raised the sales tax during the 2007 special session, when Mr. O'Malley led an effort to increas from 5 percent to 6 percent. “No one in our state lost a house, lost a job or lost a business because of additional penny on the sales tax,” the governor said. “These bridges don’t build themselves. … If we want to bu a better country for our kids, that’s how we have to do it.” The Democrat-controlled General Assembly otherw opened with smiles, laughs and handshakes, giving lawmakers a day of calm in a 90-day session expected to filled with debates about tax increases and same-sex marriage, among other issues.

West Virginia: Jobs dominate Tomblin's State of the State (Charleston Gazette)

Calling on legislators to help build a "better, stronger and more vibrant West Virginia," Gov. Earl Ray Tombli second State of the State address emphasized efforts to grow jobs, improve public education and mine safety, d with statewide drug abuse issues, and to pay down the state's multi-billion-dollar long-term liability for health c for retired state and public school employees. "As leaders of this state, we need to understand that our mission to create a business climate that fosters job development," Tomblin told a joint session of the Legislat Wednesday evening. A key theme of Tomblin's 42-minute address drew a distinction between bipartisan efforts the Legislature with the "partisan bickering" that has led to what Tomblin called a fundamental breakdown government in Washington, D.C. "This is West Virginia, where the Republican and Democrat, liberal a conservative, come together, resolve differences, and take decisive action," he said. Tomblin reiterated that his priority as governor is job creation, and cited $3 billion of new investment in the state in 2011 by compan including Toyota, Quad Graphics, Caiman Energy and Macy's. He noted that the biggest potential investment the horizon in 2012 would be a multibillion-dollar ethane cracker plant, using natural gas by-products produc from horizontal drilling in the Marcellus Shale basin.


OPINION Editorial: Haslam's legislative agenda contains bills that deserve support (J. Sun)

On Thursday, Gov. Bill Haslam reviewed his legislative agenda with members of The Jackson Sun editorial boa

and there is much that deserves support. Each year, Tennessee's governor submits a series of bills to the Gene Assembly that reflect executive branch efforts to improve state government and to implement the governor's vis for the state. Several of Haslam's proposals deserve support. Jobs and economic growth still are top priorities many Tennesseans. They also appear at the top of Haslam's to-do list. One proposal would strengthen econo development efforts by allowing the Department of Community and Economic Development to place m emphasis on grants to help recruit companies and jobs to Tennessee. Such up-front incentives to businesses ha two advantages. One, they appeal to businesses because they can help offset growth and job creat development costs. Two, they offer significant transparency and public accountability for the expenditures becau they are tied to specific requirements and meeting specific goals. We support Haslam's recommended changes is time to update the state's labyrinthine and outdated employment system. Haslam has proposed updating t Tennessee Excellence Accountability and Management Act. It proposes to simplify the hiring process, prov greater flexibility to retain and reward outstanding state employees and streamline the employee appeals proces

Greg Johnson: Haslam strikes chord on taxes, pay, efficiency (News-Sentinel)

Christmas has come and gone. Epiphany just passed. But, lo and behold, Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday ga Tennesseans a gift, a legislative agenda that is quite inspired. On taxes, Haslam astutely packaged a cut in t state inheritance tax with a reduction in the tax on groceries, effectively triangulating Tennessee Democra Currently, Tennessee taxes estates worth more than $1 million while federal law allows hard-working, wi investing folks to pass up to $5 million on to heirs without invading the estate. Haslam's proposal would raise t "excludable" amount to the feds' standard over five years. Small-business owners, substantial land owners a family farmers have to craft extensive plans to keep Nashville from taking too much from their kids at their deat Already armed for class warfare, Democrats would be free to assault Haslam for favoring the rich if he hadn't ti the reduction to a cut on the tax on grocery grub. By lowering the state sales tax rate on grocery food from percent to 5 percent over the next three years, Haslam not only gives Democrats something they have lo wanted, he also acknowledged the regressive nature of sales taxes on groceries. Low-income families pay relatively larger percentage of their income for groceries, so Haslam's move is not just good politics — it's the ri thing to do.

Editorial: Bold steps taken against drug abuse, judicial misconduct (News-Sentine

The state Supreme Court and Gov. Bill Haslam each took steps recently to prevent a reprise of the debacle caus by ex-judge Richard Baumgartner's prescription drug abuse. The court revised ethics rules to require judges report their colleagues' suspect behavior, while the governor has proposed measures to catch addicts who obt prescriptions for painkillers from multiple doctors. While too late to undo the damage done the local justice syst by Baumgartner's misdeeds, the measures should help combat the state's most destructive drug plague. Hasl last week unveiled his plan to stem the tide of prescription drug abuse. He's pushing legislation that calls fo

patient's prescription profile to be checked when a prescription for painkillers is written and every six mon

thereafter. Haslam's proposal also calls for new rules for reporting prescriptions to the database and expand access to the database for law enforcement agencies. The prescription drug legislation is part of a comprehens public safety plan developed by an administration working group led by Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons. T working group included members from 11 state agencies. Russ Miller, executive vice president of the Tenness Medical Association, has said his organization could support the governor's effort, though he added that the deta would require scrutiny. Baeteena Black, executive director of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association, cal Haslam's proposal "rational and reasonable."

Pam Strickland: Lakeshore still taking patients (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

We had all been led to believe that Lakeshore Mental Health Institute would stop taking admissions as of the e of 2011, but last weekend the state hospital in Bearden took 23 new admissions as staffing reached critically l levels. Grant Lawrence, public information officer with the state Department of Mental Health, confirmed t weekend admissions to Lakeshore and said updated contracts with the private hospitals had yet to be sign during a telephone conversation on Wednesday. However, he tried to pass it off as routine. "Admissions Lakeshore cannot be closed until June 30," he said. "There's been some misunderstanding about how that proce works." This despite the fact that his boss, state Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney, had been very clea communications beginning Nov. 10 that admissions to Lakeshore would end Dec. 31, with patients being referr to Covenant Health's Peninsula, Johnson City's Woodridge Hospital and Ridgeview Community Mental Hea Services of Oak Ridge. Lawrence said that the "contracts are in process" and will be signed after teams fin "assessing patient by patient" those currently in Lakeshore. He also said he could not speak to reports t Woodridge had refused to accept Lakeshore patients in its group homes,"but they have accepted Lakesh patients in that situation in the past."

Times Editorial: What county protest 'rules'? (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Hamilton County commissioners' displeasure with the Occupy Chattanooga protesters' around-the-clock camp- on the lawn of the County Courthouse has been apparent for some time. Though their actions have been m measured, and more careful to avoid the use of force seen elsewhere against the Occupy movement, they n seem determined to end the camp-out. They recently circumvented the Sunshine Law by taking an apparen illegal private meeting with County Attorney Rheubin Taylor to discuss their legal options. There was no legitim reason to invoke the law's confidentiality clause for a private meeting with the attorney for commissioners discuss what amounts to a public policy issue -- the correctness and method of their goal to eject the proteste

from their campsite, and thus restrict the form of their protest. Then they drew up a list of rules that they now cla have been somehow honored and observed through "tradition" for decades, and that they say the protesters now violating. And now they've gone to federal court to seek a judge's declaration that their planned ejection of t Occupy protesters under those newly contrived rules is legal under the First Amendment of the United Sta Constitution. Their method for all this, of course, has the texture of a shameless sham prompted by th intolerance of an exceedingly peaceful, orderly and worthy protest in behalf of economic justice for the broad cla of working Americans. There's ample reason to doubt that a federal judge would sanction their intention to cre and use post-facto rules to eject the Occupy protesters.

Free-Press Editorial: Hamilton commissioners seek to protect safety, property (TF

A quick look at pictures in the Times Free Press of the lawn of the Hamilton County Courthouse shows why cou

commissioners are concerned about the so-called "Occupy Chattanooga" protesters who have camped at the s for weeks on end. Tents and chairs are scattered about. A pile of wood sits under a tarp, and an open fire bu nearby. Once-grassy areas have been reduced to mud. In short, the normally picturesque lawn is a mess. "You probably talking about in the thousands-of-dollars range to redo it all and get it back like it used to b Commissioner Chester Bankston told the Free Press editorial page. For ill-defined reasons -- such as opposition "greed" -- Occupy protesters have congregated around the country the past few months. In some cases, sites their demonstrations have become unsanitary, and some protesters have been violent. We fortunately have seen violence in the Chattanooga protest, nor dangerously unsanitary conditions. And agree or disagree with

protesters' views, we all should uphold the constitutional "right of the people peaceably to assemble

." But

... freedom of assembly has never been absolute. Time, place and manner restrictions have long been imposed

maintain public order and safety and to protect property.

Note: There will be no news-clips published on Saturday, Jan. 14 or Monday, Jan 16.