FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2012 Haslam hints at second Chattanooga Amazon facility (Times Free-Press/Pare

New Amazon distribution centers such as the one in Chattanooga will vault Tennessee to the top three among states in terms of the Internet retailer's footprint, officials said Thursday. And Amazon officials, who gave Gov. Bill Haslam his first look at the 1 million-square-foot Chattanooga center, hinted that the online retailer's presence could grow in Hamilton County. Company officials refer to the site as "Chattanooga One," said Paul Misener, Amazon's director of global public policy. "The one's suggestive," he said. "We're all counting." Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said the city would make room for Amazon as events unfold. Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Misener's remarks "are a tease" and declined further comment. Haslam said he's looking forward to more jobs coming from the company, which will have five centers in Tennessee when it builds in Rutherford and Wilson counties. Amazon now employs 400 people in Bradley County.

Gov. Bill Haslam visits Chattanooga's Amazon facility, talks jobs (TFP/Pare)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today toured the Chattanooga Amazon facility, and said he’s looking forward to the company creating more jobs in the state. And, a top Amazon official hinted that more could be on the way for Hamilton County. Paul Misener, Amazon’s director of global public policy, said company officials refer to the existing Hamilton County facility as “Chattanooga One.” “The one’s suggestive. We’re all counting,” he said. Haslam said he was impressed by the sheer size of the facility as well as its 1,700 jobs. “I’m thankful for the realworld investment in Hamilton County,” he said.

Amazon Hold Fulfillment Center Grand Opening (W DEF-TV Chattanooga)
Amazon finally puts its stamp on the scenic city, with the grand opening of its Fulfillment Center in Chattanooga. "The sheer size of it is impressive, and we are grateful that they would invest in the state of Tennessee. The number of employees and the fact that that number is going to continue to grow. Three, the technology is impressive to see," said Governor Bill Haslam. "Through everyone's hard work, we started shipping before the holidays. Since then in just a few short months, the team here in Chattanooga helped us build this facility to be one of our largest in the U.S. by volume," said Amazon Vice President of North American Operations Mike Roth. And Amazon officials say that's just the beginning of the center's growth. "When we've completed our expansion here in Chattanooga, we'll have the equivalent of more than 28 football fields of space, over 7 miles of fiber optic cable, over 71 miles of copper wire and about 900 wireless access points to support the technology that helps our employees serve customers around the country," added Hold-Fulfillment-Center-Grand-Opening/dML05OvBgkmglDIm2VI9tQ.cspx

Tennessee governor visits the Scenic City (WRCB-TV Chattanooga)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is in the Scenic City Thursday. Governor Haslam is in town for the official grand opening of the fulfillment center. Haslam took the opportunity to join the Chattanooga Rotary Club for their monthly luncheon. Among the topics Gov. Haslam addressed at the Rotary Club was the state's budget. "Everybody says run government like a business, until you do it. We were relentless in cutting where we could to save for needs." Haslam says. "The Tennessee budget has shrunk, overall from $32 billion to $31 billion." The governor also discussed education and a renewed focus on business development in the state. "You're seeing renewed focus on science and technology at UTC and MTSU. We're committed to BEP formula too, and restoring Rainy Day Fund," he says. "We're making headway on primary-secondary education reform and seeking waiver from federal No Child Left Behind, to develop Tennessee standards." Haslam says the state is "pushing fast-track grants to companies to create jobs," but says the process needs to be transparent on who

is getting them and for what reason.

Inside Amazon (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)
They've been shipping since October, but for the first time Amazon's Chattanooga Fulfillment Center let cameras in to see how its operation works. The tour was part of Amazon's grand opening. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, current Mayor Jim Coppinger, and Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield were just a few of the lawmakers in attendance who helped broker the Chattanooga-Amazon deal. They along with about 50 others got their first glimpse into how Amazon works. Cardboard boxes fly through the massive floorspace at Amazon. When expansion is complete, the floor space will be equivalent to 28 football fields. The first floor is called "inbound." That's where all the shipments come in. They're sorted and then sent upstairs to the "outbound" section. Upstairs the items are packaged, labeled, and sent out. Every one of the thousand-plus employees plays a role. Amazon higher-ups say they're working on coverting hundreds of seasonal employees to full-time. As their operation expands, the plant's general manager says they're expanding their economic footprint as well.

Amazon in Tennessee; amazing growth, amid taxing questions (WRCB-TV Chatt.)
Hectic though it is, Groundhog Day at Amazon's Chattanooga Fulfillment Center is nothing compared to the rush this past Christmas. A Christmas that almost wasn't. "It was not expressed as a deal-breaker," says Deputy Gov. Claude Ramsey, the former Hamilton County Mayor who helped broker the deal that brought Amazon's distribution warehouses to Hamilton and Bradley Counties in late 2010. "It (not having to collect sales taxes) was what got them to look at us." "And, enabled us to bring to Tennessee a more than $270 million investment," says Paul Misener, Amazon's Vice President for Global Public Policy. "It brought 3300 full-time jobs, with comprehensive healthcare benefits, because we resolved an impasse." The deal Governor Bill Haslam brokered, if Tennessee lawmakers pass it, requires Amazon to begin collecting Tennessee sales taxes in 2014. It changes the rules mid-game, but Misener says the only way to keep the game fair is for Congress to pass legislation enabling states to require all online retailers, or e-tailers, to collect sales taxes. .

Governor Pitches His Ideas for Education, Taxes, Fighting Crime (W DEF-TV)
The decision to close the Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe county will not change. Governor Bill Haslam talked about that controversial move and other subjects of local interest at the Downtown Rotary club at noon. MAYOR RON LITTLEFIELD "We're going to put you between me and Coppinger and we're going to wear you out." Governor Bill Haslam was not the least bit intimidated by that light-hearted greeting at the Rotary luncheon. In fact he launched-into a review and defense of every major point from his state-of-the-state address delivered Monday. The most emphasis is on promoting education, industrial development, and fighting crime. The Education spending plan will impact Chattanooga. GOV. BILL HASLAM, ROTARY CLUB "For what that means here..we put in this year's budget 3-million dollars of planning money, but t go toward the construction next year of a 60 million life science building for the university of Tennessee Chattanooga. " The Haslam administration is proposing to cut the sales tax on groceries from 5 and a half, to 5 percent.

Haslam says Taft Center closing part of effort to streamline gov. (TFP/Flessner)
Gov. Bill Haslam said today that closing the Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe County is part of his overall effort to streamline state government and offer services at less cost. “We feel like we were hired to deliver the very best value for the lowest tax and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Haslam told the Chattanooga Rotary Club. “Everybody says government is too big and you should cut it and run it like a business. But every time you make one of these decisions to cut some service, some people don’t like it.” Haslam said the state’s five youth development centers across Tennessee are only about 70 percent full. “I think it’s more economical for the state to have four centers that are about 90 percent full,” he said. “That will save us four to five million dollars a year.” The job losses from the Taft center closing will be offset, at least for some workers, by a new state prison being built in Bledsoe County, Haslam said. The governor said he also is getting criticism for proposing the shutdown of the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in Knoxville less than a mile from his home. The center has 390 employees and houses 90 patients. 2

Haslam addresses concerns over closure of Taft Development Center (Nooga)
Following a 20-minute address to members of the Chattanooga Rotary Club, Gov. Bill Haslam said the closure of the Taft Youth Development Center was a tough but necessary decision to provide Tennesseans with the most effective government for the lowest cost. Haslam took a handful of questions from audience members and said the decision to close the Pikeville, Tenn., facility employing nearly 170 people and housing more than 1/3 of Hamilton County's young offenders was not taken lightly. "Those decisions aren't easy," Haslam said. "Everybody says, 'Government is too big, cut it, run it like a business,' but every time you make one of those decisions, there's people who don't like it. But we feel like we were hired to give the very best value for the lowest taxes, and that's what we're going to continue to work on." Closing Taft, which is currently 69 percent occupied, will provide the state with an overall savings of approximately $4.4 million. Considering Tennessee's $31 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Haslam was asked during a follow-up with reporters if the savings were worth closing the facility, which has the lowest recidivism rates and highest percentage of GED and high school diploma attainment of any of the state's five youth development centers.

Haslam Defends Decision To Close Taft (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)
Governor Bill Haslam spoke to the Chattanooga Downtown Rotary Club and acknowledged how unpopular it is to close the Taft Youth Development Center. Governor Haslam said, "A lot of folks don't like that. If it's in your area, you're like, 'That's a big employer for us. W hy are you doing that?' We're getting some significant push back." But Haslam said the numbers make sense to close Taft. Department of Children's Services Commissioner Kathryn O'Day included the shut-down in her budget. The plan is to consolidate the teens from Taft into the four other centers spread across the state. The governor said it comes down to the occupancy rate system-wide. Presently, it stands at 69 percent. Closing Taft and consolidating would bump the rate up to 87 percent, according to the DCS. Haslam said, "Sometimes what it means is making decisions that aren't always easy." Taft is funded for 96 beds and usually has about 90 teenagers housed inside. Taft is known as the state's most restrictive youth site for harder offenders. Unruly youths from the other centers are often sent to Taft for rehabilitation.

Nursing program at Cleveland State CC in high demand (TFP/Trevizo)
The nursing program at Cleveland State Community College faced such high demand, the school decided to offer an evening program — which also filled up. The college received about 120 applications for the program’s 40 slots. At the end, though, 51 students were accepted because of the demand and number of qualified students. More than 150 people showed up for three information sessions. “We started talking about this back in the fall 2008. There’s an increasing demand for health care workers; us baby boomers are putting in increasing demands in health care system,” Jerry Faulkner, vice president for academic affairs at Cleveland State, said with a chuckle. The nursing program, which includes clinical hands-on experience and lab hours, has a capacity of 85, Faulkner has said, which the college easily has reached in the last several years. The total cost for both day and evening programs is $7,326, or $111 per credit hour. Joshua Pratt is 25, has a full-time job, is married and has a 2-year-old boy at home, so enrolling in a flexible nursing program was a must.

Shelby County Drug Court to aid addicted moms (Commercial Appeal/Buser)
Offers way to regain custody of newborns The largest drug court in the state is now expanding slightly to begin treating drug-addicted mothers and offering them a chance to become drug free and possibly reunited with their drug-addicted newborns. Called "Born Addicted," the pilot program will suspend criminal prosecution of the women's drug charges while they participate in an 18-month Drug Court Treatment Program involving substance-abuse counseling, monitoring and education. Their newborns have been removed from their custody and Drug Court counselors will keep the Department of Children Services advised of the mother's treatment progress. Regaining custody is possible for the mothers, but not guaranteed. Seven women with pending drug charges and who took drugs while pregnant now are enrolled in the voluntary program. "The real goal here is to make sure the mothers get off the drugs," Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich said at a press conference Thursday. "We hope this program will help them get reunited with their babies. We have the potential here to do so much 3

more than just enforce the law."

Worker injured as cleanup begins on I-40 rock slide site (News-Sentinel)
A worker was injured this afternoon amid the first day of emergency operations to clear the rock slide debris blocking the westbound lanes of Interstate 40 in Cocke County, according to officials. The man, who was not identified, suffered a minor head wound while operating a trackhoe used to chip away at a 1,500-ton boulder left precariously perched above the interstate, said Mark Nagi, Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman. The rock came loose and fell on the machinery, and the worker received a two-inch gash to his head as he jumped clear, said Nagi, although it wasn't immediately clear exactly how he sustained the injury. "He wasn't hit by the rock itself," Nagi said. The worker was wearing the proper safety gear at the time, including a hard hat, safety glasses and vest. He was transported to Newport Medical Center via ambulance for observation. The initial rock slide happened in the early hours Tuesday, blocking the westbound lanes between mile markers 450 and 451.

Worker injured at I-40 rockslide in Cocke County (WATE-TV Knoxville)
A worker was injured Thursday as a contractor for the state Department of Transportation began work to clear a rockslide on Interstate 40 westbound in Cocke County. A crew was using a big piece of machinery to bring down a large rock sitting precariously on a hill by the roadway. As the rock came down, a chunk of it hit the machinery. The operator suffered a minor cut to his head, according to TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi. The worker was taken to a local hospital for treatment, and is expected to be fine.

Worker injured at site of Interstate 40 rockslide (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
A man working for the company contracted to clear the rockslide on Interstate 40 was injured Thursday afternoon. Crews began working to chip away at a boulder weighing an estimated 1,500 tons around 11 a.m., according to Mark Nagi, community relations officer for the Tennessee Dept. of Transportation. Around 3:30 p.m., the large boulder came loose, tilting as it fell toward the roadway. The large rock smashed into a track hoe, which was being used to clear rock and debris. Nagi says warning horns blared, and the operator of that equipment jumped from the machinery. While he had been wearing the proper head and eye safety equipment, Nagi said the man still suffered a 2-inch cut on his head. He wasn't sure exactly how. The man was transported from the scene in an ambulance, but Nagi says he did not suffer serious injuries. He was treated and released from a local hospital and returned to the job site. Nagi adds that all safety precautions were being followed at the scene, but points out that the work is inherently dangerous. orker-injured-at-site-of-Interstate-40-rockslide

Worker hurt at I-40 rock slide cleanup (WVLT-TV Knoxville)
A worker at the rock slide that has I-40 shut down got a gash on his head after a rock fell and hit machinery. TDOT spokesperson Mark Nagi says the man was operating a track hoe and working to get the rock down. When the rock came down, it hit his machinery. He jumped out and ended up getting a minor cut on his head. The worker was wearing all of his safety gear at the time, including goggles and helmet. "But this is dangerous work," Nagi told us. He was responsive, walking and talking before he was put in an ambulance and taken to a local hospital. He has been released. On Wednesday, TDOT awarded Phillips and Jordan, Inc., a Knoxville company the contract to cleanup the slide.

TDOT pushes back bridge completion date (Columbia Daily Herald)
A completion date for construction on the Campbellsville Pike Bridge, which has already been postponed twice, is now set for April 15, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s chief engineer. Work was originally slated to be finished on the bridge in November 2011, but wet weather and problems relocating utilities forced delays in reconstruction of the bridge over Little Bigby Creek on Campbellsville Pike. W ork was then expected to continue until Dec. 31. TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges said Thursday, however, the project is 4

“86.6 percent complete.” He said that concrete is now being poured that has to be allowed to strengthen before a load can be put on the bridge. “Some people look out there and say ‘it doesn’t look like there is much activity going on,” Degges said. “That concrete has to cure.” Work on the bridge began in September 2010. The contractor for the project originally wanted to shut down the existing bridge to finish construction faster, but members of the community and other stakeholders wanted to keep one lane open with traffic signals, Degges said.

QR Code Added to Official 2012 State Map (Associated Press)
The official 2012 Tennessee Transportation Map is now available. This year's map contains a Quick Response (QR) code that will allow users to scan and link to the Tennessee Department of Transportation's mobile web application, TDOT SmartW ay Mobile. Motorists can get real-time traffic information using smartphones this way. The map is a joint effort between TDOT and the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development. The map can be downloaded at They are free at welcome centers and rest areas across the state.

Judicial Ethics Panel Makeup Debated (TN Report)
Judges and lawmakers agree the state’s system for policing judges is flawed, but there’s so far little agreement as to how much sway judges themselves should have over that watchdog role. Lawmakers are considering two major bills this year to recreate a panel responsible for disciplining judges who cross ethical lines. The major difference between the two proposals is just how many judges can sit on the new panel — and both sides are so far unwilling to budge. “The appearance of judges appointing judges to hear complaints on judges doesn’t give them much credibility,” said Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, a top critic of the current panel, the Court of the Judiciary. Judges pitched their own reforms to a legislative committee in SB2671 Wednesday, suggesting the lawmakers replace the current ethics panel with a “Board of Judicial Conduct” that would shift responsibility for discarding complaints to board members rather than staff. The new board would also produce quarterly public reports instead of the current yearly statistics, establish a legislative liaison, and operate with a lower threshold for pursuing an investigation.

Support builds for special session on health care (AP/Schelzig, Johnson)
Republican lawmakers are building support for a plan to wait until the end of the year to take action on state requirements set by President Barack Obama's federal health care law. House Speaker Beth Harwell said Thursday that it would make sense to allow legal and political challenges to the federal health care law to play out before addressing how or whether to set up a state health insurance exchange. "I think that's prudent," said Harwell, R-Nashville. "It is a wise course of action to wait, and if we have to take action as a state, come back into special session." Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey first floated the idea of a post-election special session on health care in a speech to a Nashville business group in December. "Study should be our primary focus on this issue while we wait for a decision from the Supreme Court and the presidential election," Ramsey said in a statement. "If we have to come back to address this issue before the end of the year then we will." Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has warned that failure to establish a state exchange by the beginning of next year would lead the federal government to create one for Tennessee. He has also raised concerns that a delay could cause to the state to lose federal money dedicated to establishing state exchanges.|newswell|text|News|p

School superintendents denounce governor's education bill (WKRN-TV Nashville)
Governor Bill Haslam's bill that would tie school funding to larger class size drew some heavy fire Thursday. The proposal would eliminate state-imposed average class size caps and allow districts to pay teachers more based on class size or student learning gains. The measure is sponsored by Republican Mark Norris, of Collierville, in the state Senate, and Republican Gerald McCormick, of Chattanooga, in the state House. Eighty-percent of the state's schools superintendents said in a survey they are against the plan. Many parents are also against it, because they believe smaller classes help kids learn. Jennifer Smith has three kids in the highly-touted Williamson County schools system. "Class size is what makes Williamson County so unique," said Smith, who is president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Hillsboro Elementary/Middle School. She described herself as "kind of alarmed" at the governor's proposal. 5

TN lawmakers discuss reducing sales tax (Associated Press/Johnson)
The Republican sponsor of a proposal to reduce the sales tax on groceries in Tennessee said Wednesday he’s open to working with Democrats who have a similar measure if it would help the legislation’s passage. The bill by Rep. Glen 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. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has included $2 million for lawmakers to appropriate on items not in his agenda, which means many proposals may not get funded. Casada’s legislation would reduce the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5 percent, while the Democrats have a plan that would drop it a half-cent more. Haslam’s budget contains a proposal to reduce the sales tax to 5.3 percent. Casada said he applauds the governor’s effort but would like to see the tax reduced further. He estimates his proposal would cost $42 million. “By no means am I going to stop looking,” Casada said. “I’m more than hopeful. I’m sitting down with a lot of folks.” One individual Casada said he’s willing to talk to is Democratic House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley, the main sponsor of the Democratic tax proposal.|topnews|text|News

Lawmakers want bigger cut to TN food tax (WSMV-TV Nashville)
In his State of the State address, Gov. Bill Haslam said he plans to reduce the food tax from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent, but some lawmakers want it even lower. "Many of you have long expressed a desire to decrease the tax on groceries. This budget proposes to do just that," Haslam said Monday. His plan takes the food tax from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent next year. That means on $10 of groceries, shoppers would pay two cents less. No one is objecting to cutting the food tax, but some lawmakers want to cut more, faster. "Food is just one of those things. It's a common denominator, let's get rid of it. Everybody eats," said Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove. Casada's plan would take the tax down to 5 percent, so shoppers would save a nickel on the same $10 of groceries. But that extra three cents on $10 of food is an extra $42 million in tax revenue. So, Casada is asking lawmakers of all parties to help him find that money somewhere.

Licenses at Risk If Professionals Can’t Pay Student Loans (W PLN-Radio Nashville)
Teachers and other select professionals would lose their licenses if they fall behind on repaying their student loans, under a bill that passed in the state House of Representatives today. The loans in question are guaranteed and administered by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, a state agency. The bill passed by the House would require the state to cancel professional licenses for athletic agents, lobbyists and teachers who fail to repay their loans. Frankin Republican Charles Sargent is the bill’s sponsor. He says his aim is to get former students to meet their responsibilities, so that the student loan program doesn’t disappear as an option for new students. “I think it will put responsibilities also, that the students know there’s going to be enforcement, some enforcement, a little stricter enforcement, if they do not pay their student loans back.” House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh says the bill unfairly singles out teachers, especially those who might be out of work because of school budget cuts.

Bill to “De-Occupy” Clears Hurdle in State Legislature (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
Lawmakers on an important subcommittee approved a bill Wednesday night that would clear tents off the Legislative Plaza. Members of Occupy Nashville in the audience remained silent as the bill was approved. One protester giggled when State Representative Eric Watson, who brought the “de-occupy Nashville” bill, said it didn’t attack free speech. The committee chair gaveled the room back to silence and said “You can disagree …. But we’re not going to laugh.” One of the Occupiers, standing outside his tent on the Plaza after the meeting, argues the bill is an attack on free speech. “They seem to be against it but they don’t want to admit that they’re against it, because they know that it does absolutely violate civil rights.” Andrew, who wouldn’t give his last name, says the 24/7 camp on the Plaza is a political statement. To say the movement can continue to protest, but then to clear away their tents, portable toilets and other supports is illogical, he says. “Either they’re deluded in their thought process that they’re not squelching free speech, or they’re trying to delude the general public of that.”


Two lawmakers push to eliminate gun background checks (Herald-Courier)
Two area lawmakers are pushing for a bill that would eliminate gun background checks for more than 300,000 Tennesseans and that has the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation concerned. Senator Steve Southerland is sponsoring the legislation in the Tennessee Senate and representative David Hawk is doing the same in the house. Under the proposal, people with valid handgun carry permits won't need to pass background checks in order to buy guns. Gun carriers already have to pay $115, pass an intensive background check and get fingerprinted in order to get their permits. Southerland tells us they shouldn't have to pay an extra $10 for another background check every time they buy a new gun. “Why should you continue to have to go through background checks,” Southerland said. “If you’ve been convicted, they’ll take (your permit) away.” Southerland delayed his version of the bill yesterday at the request of the TBI. “The TBI asked for a delay last year at the end of the session,” Southerland said. “TBI has had time to come up with a good reason. I will listen to their concerns. If they’re legitimate concerns, we’ll work with them. If they’re just against guns, we’ll move forward.”

Legislators listen as Rutherford teachers vent about pay, evaluations (Gannett)
Local school teachers challenged state lawmakers Thursday about the wisdom of changing teacher pay structures and raised objections to Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system, calling it burdensome and stressful. The Murfreesboro Education Association and Rutherford Education Association, which invited the Rutherford legislative delegation to a forum at Blackman High, are both opposed to a plan introduced by Gov. Bill Haslam to drop the state’s teacher pay system based on experience and advanced degrees and give local school systems authority to set up new pay structures that depend on student test scores and evaluations “The pay for performance idea the governor is proposing is not a good idea. We do not teach widgets. We teach kids,” Central Magnet School teacher Allison Powell told the delegation. Salary rules may be tweaked State Sen. Jim Tracy and state Rep. Rick Womick are also sponsoring a bill that would let systems set up their own salary schedules using test scores and evaluations to determine pay but would let teachers opt out and stay in a “grandfathered” system. Years of experience and degrees would be devalued for new teachers.|newswell|text|News|s

Shipley comes to aide of man having seizure at downtown Nashville hotel (T-N)
When a Dallas man who was in town for his company’s national sales meeting had a seizure at a downtown hotel W ednesday evening, a state legislator took charge of the situation until the Nashville Fire Department arrived. Max Carter, a vice president of Franklin-based Passport Health Communications Inc., said state Rep. Tony Shipley, a Kingsport Republican with training as a paramedic, may have saved the life of a 34-year-old Passport employee. Carter wrote in an email that he and two other employees managed to catch their co-worker before he hit the ground, but they weren’t sure what else to do besides calling 911 and turning him on his side so he wouldn’t choke. “As a result of Representative Shipley’s quick action what could have been a truly horrible situation was averted,” Carter wrote. “Moreover, in a time when many healthcare professionals, and just people in general, are afraid to assist in similar situations due to fear of lawsuits, etc, I thought Mr. Shipley’s actions should be noted. I have no idea what his training or background is but he was relaying vitals to 911 like a pro and telling us exactly what to do.”

12,571 photo IDs for Tennessee voters added since July 1 (Times Free-Press/Sher)
Tennessee issued 12,571 photo IDs for voters between July 1 and Jan. 30, the state Safety Department announced Thursday. Under a Republican-backed law that took effect Jan. 1, all Tennessee voters must display state or federally issued photo identification to vote. Republicans say the law is necessary to prevent voter fraud, but Democrats and other critics charge the measure is part of a national movement by the GOP and its allies to discourage the elderly, minorities and students from voting. Democrats have introduced legislation in the General Assembly this year to gut the law. Some Republicans have introduced bills to address aspects of the law. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, has a bill that would add a photo ID issued by city and county governments to the list of acceptable identification. Safety Department officials say 11,986 of the IDs issued by state Driver Service Centers were nonphoto driver's licenses converted into photo driver's licenses. Under current state law, drivers 60 and older aren't required to have photos on their license. They account for 10 percent of the estimated 126,000 Tennesseans with nonphoto licenses. Another 675 people were issued original photo identification cards. 7

Planned Parenthood files suit to restore funding (Associated Press)
Affiliates of Planned Parenthood have filed a lawsuit against the state Health Department to restore funding. Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee and Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region filed the lawsuit Thursday to restore preventive care funding under the HIV Prevention Services and the Syphilis Elimination grant programs. Planned Parenthood, which also provides abortions, said in a news release that no reason was given for the contracts being terminated in December. However, Jeff Teague, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, alleged the reasons are political. A spokeswoman for the Health Department said in an email to The Associated Press that officials have not yet seen the lawsuit and cannot comment on pending litigation.|newswell|text|News|s

Planned Parenthood sues TN over cuts to STD program (Tennessean/Haas)
Two affiliates say state yanked grants for political reasons Abortion opponents are claiming another victory in the battle to defund Planned Parenthood by excluding it from state and federal funding for HIV and syphilis prevention programs. But the nonprofit is fighting back. Two Tennessee Planned Parenthood groups sued the state Thursday for denying the nonprofit more than $150,000 in grant money to participate in programs funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Planned Parenthood wants a federal judge to intervene and asked for an injunction against the state. In the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood accuses the state of arbitrarily denying the funding in December and this month — without providing a reason — after approving it in August. Planned Parenthood also accuses the state of violating the organization’s First Amendment rights and patients’ rights by restricting access to non-abortion services based solely on an aversion to abortion. While the state did not provide Planned Parenthood a reason for denying it access to the grant money, Gov. Bill Haslam and his political allies have been open about their opposition to funding the organization with government money.|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Planned Parenthood sues TN Health Department over funding loss (CA/Patterson)
Claiming they've been singled out for providing abortions to women, Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region is suing the state Department of Health to regain about $150,000 in grant contracts for HIV prevention and syphilis elimination dropped by the state in December. PPGMR filed the joint suit with Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee on Thursday in federal district court in Nashville. Planned Parenthood argues the state's decision to drop them from federally funded HIV and syphilis testing, treatment and outreach programs was "motivated solely by animus" toward the organization's privately funded abortion services. "There's obviously a political bent against Planned Parenthood," said Barry Chase, PPGMR CEO. "It's our belief that part of it is caused by the fact we provide a perfectly legal, important health service for women -- abortion." Tennessee Department of Health spokeswoman Kelley W alker said department officials have not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on pending litigation. Grant money for the two programs comes from the state through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (SUBSCRIPTION)

Planned Parenthood Affiliates Sue Tenn. (Memphis Daily News)
Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region and Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee have filed a federal lawsuit in Nashville against John Dreyzehner, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health. According to the suit, the groups were awarded funding in 2011 under the HIV Prevention Services and Syphilis Elimination grant programs. But the suit says the state did an about-face at the end of the year for reasons Planned Parenthood say are unfair and have nothing to do with the programs themselves. Starting on page 10 of the lawsuit, the groups detail how they’ve been at the center of a political firestorm in the state. Even though they provide a comprehensive array of health services, their abortion services have made them a lightning rod – in Tennessee as well as around the country. “Plaintiffs, their patients, and thousands of women, men and teens will be injured by plaintiffs’ loss of these federal grant funds, which total nearly $150,000,” the lawsuit reads. “This loss is exacerbated by the defendant’s abrupt decision, which came without warning within days of the start of the new calendar and 2012 grant year.” 8

State Further Cuts Planned Parenthood, Organization Sues (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
The Planned Parenthood offices in Tennessee are suing the state over another round of cuts to its grant funding, this time for HIV and Syphilis prevention. As of January 1st, Planned Parenthood receives no money from the state. These specific grants – totaling nearly $170,000 – actually come from the federal government, but the state had directed the money to Planned Parenthood for the last decade. In December, the contract was dropped. Jeff Teague, CEO of the Nashville Planned Parenthood office, says state officials gave no reason – at least in writing. “It has nothing to do with the services we were providing with that grant. It has everything to do with that fact that we provide abortion care.” Last year, state lawmakers cut off funding to Planned Parenthood for family planning services. Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey said he was “proud to lead the charge” in defunding the organization. Teague calls it “politics.” “It’s startling to me that when we’ve seen a huge increase in the past five years of the number of new cases of HIV infection in 15 to 24 year olds, that the governor, leaders in the General Assembly, the commissioner of health have decided to play politics.”

Metro to Update Public on Flood-Preparation Projects (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
Metro officials will soon detail some ways to make Nashville more ready in case of another big flood. They’ll give a progress update at three public meetings set for later this month. Metro started work a year ago on what it calls a “unified” response to the deadly torrents of May, 2010. That’s when more than a foot of rain fell on Nashville; 21 people died in Tennessee – about half in Davidson County, which also suffered more than $2 billion worth of property damage. Now officials expect to recommend safeguards in case of a similar event. At a series of meetings last year officials talked about everything from building floodwalls and a warning system to buying out houses in the floodplain. So far they’ve bought out more than a hundred homes, and the National W eather Service is looking to add more flood gauges along area creeks and rivers.

Knox County mayor: Tourism officials should resign (Associated Press)
Knox County's mayor said Thursday that several officials with the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation should resign because of what some critics have called an excessive compensation package paid to the group's president and CEO. Mayor Tim Burchett also has asked the state comptroller to review the corporation's finances after WBIR-TV reported that Gloria Ray, the group's president and CEO, received more than $400,000 in compensation in 2010 ( ) Burchett said Ray should step down, as well as the group's board leaders and executive committee members. The mayor's call comes a day after the board announced the chairman's resignation. Critics including Burchett have said Ray's compensation is too high. In 2010, the group — which works to recruit tourists and sporting events and also manages the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame — paid about 11 percent of its $3.7 million operating budget to Ray in salary and bonuses. Total salaries made up about 62 percent of the corporation's budget.|newswell|text|News|s

Mayors call for Ray's resignation (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Donila)
The county's two top leaders on Thursday called for the resignation of Gloria Ray, the president and CEO of the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp., a non-profit that has come under fire in recent weeks after officials and the media started looking into how the organization spends its money and how much it pays its workers. Both Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said they want Ray and the five-member KTSC executive committee, which sets her salary, to step down. In addition, Burchett on Thursday asked the state Comptroller of the Treasury to audit "that entity's financial dealings" because of his "grave concerns and complete lack of confidence in the due diligence, oversight and stewardship of taxpayer dollars." "W e need to clean house," the county mayor said. "These people need to step aside..

Burchett and Rogero call for Gloria Ray's resignation (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero are both calling for Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation President and CEO Gloria Ray to step down. They are also calling for the leadership of the board and the Executive Committee to step down. "I lost confidence in the KTSC and so has the public. Public money is at stake and I feel misled," Burchett told 10News in an interview Thursday morning. Burchett 9

said it is time for the "smoke and mirrors" to go. In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Mayor Rogero called Ray's pay "excessive" and said it's not "consistent with what the community expects from an organization funded by tax payer dollars." The mayors are calling for the action following the release of new KTSC documents that detail hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional bonuses still due Gloria Ray in the next few years. Burchett said he has sent a letter the State Office of the Comptroller to go over the organization's books.

Mayors call for Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corp. CEO Gloria Ray to resign (WATE)
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero called Thursday for Knoxville Tourism & Sports CEO Gloria Ray to resign. The move follows the release of documents showing a more than $30,000 increase in her base pay in five years. Mayor Burchett said he also wants the KTSC board leadership and executive committee to resign. "It is now obvious that a serious change is needed in the leadership of the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation. The KTSC is an organization that receives millions each year in Knox County tax dollars, and I have lost confidence in the organization's leaders. Worse, they have lost the public's trust," Burchett said in a statement released to the media. Burchett also said he has asked the state comptroller to audit all of KTSC's financial dealings.

Ray's compensation exceeds many local nonprofit leaders (News-Sentinel/Flory)
Compensation for the embattled chief of Knoxville's top tourism organization exceeds that earned by leaders of other local tax-exempt groups, according to documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Gloria Ray, president and CEO of the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp., has come under intense scrutiny because of an annual pay package that exceeds $400,000. In fiscal year 2010, her compensation was $405,583, or 9.5 percent of the total expenses incurred by that agency and Sports Management Inc., which manages the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and also is led by Ray. In comparison, the News Sentinel reviewed pay packages received by executives at other tax-exempt organizations in East Tennessee as reported in their federal 990 forms submitted to the IRS. For example, one of the largest local organizations is the Helen Ross McNabb Center, which provides mental health services and whose total revenues ranked second among area nonprofits as compiled by the Greater Knoxville Business Journal's Book of Lists. offers bargains while helping agencies (Tennessean/Gonzalez)
Bill Gunn is on the lookout for government inefficiency. His watchtower is his home computer, where with a few clicks he surveys government surplus auctions in a 100-mile radius around his home in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. There’s plenty for sale, with new things every day. More than 100 Middle Tennessee governments, police departments, school districts and universities have migrated to to auction old, broken and unwanted equipment. Gunn bids on what he thinks they’ve overlooked or undervalued. Among his proudest finds: a high-tech 100-foot sewer camera rarely pulled from its box, a multitrack surveillance video system and a massive steel tank he envisions as a storm shelter. “I’m always surprised when they sell stuff that’s in perfect working condition,” Gunn said. “A lot of stuff begins at $5. It’s very rare that I get something that’s just junk.” Bargain hunters score big when governments give up equipment they bought for plans that never panned out. But officials say that they’re the winners — and that moving to online auctions lowers sale costs, creates a larger audience of bidders and brings in cash for items otherwise gathering dust.|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Guard unit leaves Saturday for Afghanistan (Associated Press)
Tennessee National Guard soldiers from a 45-man Air Medivac unit leave Saturday for a one-year deployment to Afghanistan. The Smyrna-based helicopter unit will travel to Fort Hood, Texas, for specialized training before continuing on to Afghanistan. The mission is medical evacuation of U.S. and NATO forces and civilians. The unit is nicknamed "Southern Comfort." Blackhawk helicopters to be used are already in Afghanistan. A deployment ceremony will be held at the Volunteer Training Site in Smyrna at 9 a.m. Six aircraft and crews will be used.|newswell|text|News|s

Production to start soon at new Whirlpool site (Times Free-Press/Leach)

Whirlpool is expected to manufacture and ship the first products from its new Benton Pike site this quarter, officials say. The company is beginning the transition from its King Edwards Drive plant to a new 1 millionsquare-foot manufacturing facility and 400,000-square-foot distribution center, representing a $120 million reinvestment in Cleveland. W hirlpool could roll out products from the Benton Pike location as early as this month, Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said after a December meeting with Whirlpool officials. In the meantime, local government and utilities have been assisting the company in its transition to Benton Pike since it announced its plans in the fall of 2010. Cleveland Utilities board members voted 5-0 in a recent meeting to give the new site a temporary cut in electrical rates to help it through the startup process. "It allows a company to kind of transition into their operation," General Manager Tom Wheeler said of the 12-month agreement. "It puts them on a kind of a rate that gives them somewhat of a break while they make this transition."

Tennessee’s teen unemployment nearly 29% in 2011 (Memphis Business Journal)
Tennessee had 10th-highest teen unemployment among the nation's 50 states last year, with teen males suffering more than their female counterparts, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The state’s overall teen unemployment rate was 28.8 percent in 2011. The rate for teen males was 35.5 percent, compared to 23.9 percent for teen females. Nationally, the average teen unemployment rate was 24.4 percent in 2011, led by the District of Columbia, which registered a rate of 46.7 percent. “This country’s teens are facing a historically bad labor market,” said Michael Saltsman, research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute. “Unfortunately, it’s not just a product of the recession — minimum wage mandates at the state and federal level are keeping teens out of work.” Saltsman said decades of economic research confirm that mandated labor costs reduce hours and employment for the least-experienced workers like teens. EPI cited a recent study from economists at Miami University and Trinity University which found that 114,000 fewer teens were employed as a result of the 40 percent increase in the federal minimum wage between 2007 and 2009.

'A big day': Superintendent takes part in groundbreaking for new school (NS/Alund)
On a sun-splashed day Thursday school and county officials gathered and broke ground on a new elementary school being built in the Southwest Knox County. The ceremony at 1889 Thunderhead Road came on the heels of the Knox County school board approving a $15.5 million contract last monthwith Rouse Construction to build the new 128,500-square-foot school. The building will be constructed near the intersection of Northshore Drive and Interstate 140. Slated to open in August 2013, it will be the county's 50th elementary school. "This is a big day," Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre said following the ceremony. "We know we're going to see additional enrollment growth in this area during the next few years." Members of the Knox County school board and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett were also among about a hundred people who attended the groundbreaking. School system officials say the new building will accommodate the current and projected population of school-aged children in that part of the county and will serve about 1200 students.

Shelby County schools transition team invites area mayors to table (CA/Kelley)
The elephant in the room is clearing its throat, and members of the commission planning the transition to a unified school system for Shelby County are taking notice. The effort by suburban entities to opt out of the unified system by developing municipal school districts hadn't been given a lot of attention by the Transition Planning Commission, bent on putting together the outlines of a countywide system that would serve public school kids from every corner of the county. Thursday that abruptly changed when Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell persuaded the TPC to invite suburban mayors to appear before the commission to discuss their plans. At the suggestion of TPC and unified school board member Martavius Jones, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton also will be invited to attend the meeting, set for Feb. 16. Noting that he was the only elected official on the TPC with a countywide constituency, Luttrell said his input couldn't be limited to the operational aspects of the process. "Let's not deny... it's a very political issue in our community," Luttrell said, presenting the case for a joint meeting to the TPC executive committee. (SUBCRIPTION)

Schools Consolidation Group Wants Meeting With Suburban Mayors (MDN)

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell warned the schools consolidation transition planning commission that it cannot ignore the issue of suburban municipal school districts as it draws up the blueprint for a consolidated countywide school system. And at the planning commission’s meeting Thursday, Feb. 2, he expressed concern that the commission is not selling its work as effectively as it should against the backdrop of other competing development like the suburban plans to form their own school systems. “At the end of the day, my concern is that we have a good education system that the community is behind,” he said. “The way that I see us going at this point, we are not moving in that direction.” “The interest I must represent is quite frankly the political side of the question as well as the operational side,” Luttrell said, expressing concern about “our inability to sell this product to the community.” At his suggestion, the planning commissioners voted to ask the suburban mayors to meet with them and talk about their moves toward municipal school districts. Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald, who like Luttrell serves on the planning commission, said the mayors “look forward” to sharing the reports they have from consultants on the formation of such schools and talking about the issue.

TSU among 13 groups to consider opening charter schools in Metro (CP/Garrison)
Thirteen organizations have signaled they intend to apply this spring to open new charter schools in Metro, a sign of the booming times for publicly financed, privately led charters in Nashville. The deadline was W ednesday to submit letters of intent to seek charter approval for the 2012 charter-review cycle. Charter groups that submitted letters aren’t obligated to submit formal applications in April but the letters are a prerequisite to move forward. Formal charter applications must be delivered to the district’s central office by April 2. “Review teams” then analyze the applications before recommending approval or disapproval to the Metro Nashville Board of Education. The school board is scheduled to consider charter applications on May 22. Metro has 11 operating charter schools, with four additional schools authorized to open next school year. Among the crop of this year’s 13 charter applications is Phoenix-based Great Hearts Academies, which arrived in Nashville following a push for a charter school in parts of West Nashville, neighborhoods that are largely affluent.

TSU wants to open an on-campus elementary charter school (TN/Hubbard)
Young minorities would have wealth of mentors Tennessee State University wants to launch an elementary school on its campus in order to funnel more minority children into math and science careers with the help of college student mentors. TSU was one of 13 groups that filed letters by Wednesday with Metro Nashville Public Schools to indicate their interest in starting new charter schools. “We want to make sure there are more scientists and engineers in the minority race than there are presently,” said Portia Shields, interim president at the historically black college. She plans to ask the school board to open a K-8 school called University Bound Academy. After spending a year on “warning” with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools — which put TSU at risk of losing its accreditation — and ultimately regaining good standing late last year, TSU is now looking at helping its neighborhood thrive, Shields said. When she polled her faculty about launching a charter school at TSU, two-thirds indicated interest. odyssey=tab|topnews|text|News

$500,000 in steroids seized in Murfreesboro (Associated Press)
Police in Murfreesboro, Tenn., report confiscating illegal steroids with a street value exceeding $500,000 and arresting one man. Officers called it "an international drug smuggling operation," according to The Daily News Journal h ttp:// E. Parker Jr. was charged with possession and distribution of an ( ). illegal drug and possessing drug paraphernalia. Police said in a news release Thursday that they confiscated the steroids last week from a storage unit and from a hotel room where Parker was living. Officers said Parker was distributing the drugs to mid-level dealers, locally and throughout the country, to be sold to individuals. The drugs are believed to have originated in China.|newswell|text|News|s

Murfreesboro police seize record cache of steroids (Gannett)
City police recently confiscated the largest amount of steroids in the department’s history while investigating an “international drug smuggling operation.” Murfreesboro Police vice officers, with the help of agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, arrested Leslie E. Parker Jr., of Murfreesboro, on Jan. 27 in connection with 12

the operation, according to a news release from Murfreesboro Police. Parker was arrested after a long-term investigation revealed he was receiving and distributing large quantities of steroids, according to police. “Investigators believe the illegal drugs were being shipped from China to JFK International Airport, and then mailed to Parker locally,” said MPD spokesman Kyle Evans, via the news release. “Using the U.S. Postal Service, he distributed the drugs to mid-level dealers, both locally, and throughout the entire country to be sold to individual users.” Lead investigator Bryant Mitchell arrested and charged Parker with possession and distribution of a Schedule III drug and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to the news release.|newswell|text|News|p

Four face meth charges, arrests made in two traffic stops (Jackson Sun)
Metro Narcotics investigators seized two methamphetamine labs in Jackson-Madison County and charged four suspects in two unrelated cases within 48 hours, police said Thursday. Just after 8 p.m. Tuesday, members of the Jackson Police Department Gang Unit stopped a car at Vann Drive and North Highland Avenue. The car was occupied by driver, Richard Garner, and a passenger, Marsha Shaffer, according to a news release. Shaffer told officers there was a meth lab inside a black bag in the car. Investigators from the Jackson-Madison County Metro Narcotics Unit were called to the scene and confirmed the black bag contained ingredients and equipment that had been used to produce meth. Further inspection of the bag revealed a syringe loaded with liquid meth and a box of pseudoephedrine that had been purchased by Garner, police said. Metro Narcotics investigators processed and neutralized the lab components, and a response truck from the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force was called to the scene to package and remove the hazardous wastes.

Mississippi: Republicans challenge powers of attorney general (Stateline)
As Mississippi’s attorney general, Jim Hood rarely shies away from litigation, especially when victory could put millions of dollars into the state treasury. During more than eight years in office, Hood has reinforced Mississippi’s reputation as one of the nation’s fiercest litigants, especially on the securities front. In the name of the state’s pension system, he’s taken on around two dozen corporations, including Bank of America and Boston Scientific. All together, he’s netted the state more than $500 million in penalties and settlements. But some Mississippi lawmakers say that too much of the money ends up going to the private lawyers Hood hires for extra help. Private attorneys representing Mississippi can receive up to a quarter of corporate payouts, which often means millions of dollars. That money comes through contingency fee contracts, arrangements in which private attorneys — if victorious — receive a healthy slice of a court award or settlement. If the state loses, it pays no fees. Attorneys are usually willing to accept this arrangement instead of charging an hourly rate. In fact, Mississippi leads the nation in contingency fee contracts. For the state, it’s a no-lose deal, supporters say. The contracts draw the attention of high-quality lawyers for big cases. contentId=629384

OPINION Free-Press Editorial: Gov. Bill Haslam a wise leader in tough economic times (TFP)
Gov. Bill Haslam is a fine, enthusiastic leader in tough economic times. His common sense and his sense of 13

hope for Tennessee shone through in a visit Thursday to Chattanooga's Downtown Rotary Club. He noted statistics showing optimism among Tennesseans about our economic prospects. Chattanoogans need look no further than the huge Volkswagen manufacturing plant at Enterprise South industrial park, as well as other major developments here over the past few years, to find justification for that optimism. Spelling out his plans for progress, Haslam reiterated a proposal that lawmakers reduce the sales tax on food in Tennessee, from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent at first, and eventually to 5 percent. That would make a difference to many families over time. He also pointed out something that would be difficult to dispute: that he has been relentless in efforts to budget conservatively and to spend Tennesseans' tax dollars judiciously. Not all his proposals to save money have been greeted enthusiastically, of course. He is taking some heat over the proposed closing of Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe County. The site is for serious juvenile offenders. opinionfreepress

Greg Johnson: Haslam hits right rhetorical notes (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
In 2010, former Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam based his campaign for governor on competence, claiming his experiences running a big company and one of Tennessee's largest cities gave him the technocratic bona fides to direct the Volunteer State. Last year, after less than two months in office, Gov. Bill Haslam gave a wonkish, workmanlike State of the State address. But Monday, in his second State of the State, Haslam was obviously a man in his moment, clear on the condition of the state he finds the state and sure about the direction he wants to lead those who will follow. Yes, the technocrat was still evident. But Haslam climbed rhetorical heights seldom seen in the usually mundane presentation of the state budget to a joint session of the Legislature. "In the little over a year that I have been in office, I've been reminded time and again about the incredible state we live in and the inspiring people who call Tennessee home," Haslam said. "I have hope for Tennessee because I have confidence in Tennesseans." These were not mere words. Rather, Haslam invoked a Reaganesque belief in the people, speaking, it seemed, from a place deep within him of a Volunteer Exceptionalism that trusts the people to find their own way and build their own lives.

Guest columnist: 'Tennessee Plan' needs revisions (Tennessean)
Weaker panel, legislative role would bring accountability Last week, Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell announced their support for an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution that would legalize our system for selecting state judges. For many years, people have doubted whether our system, known as the “Tennessee Plan,” is constitutional. These leaders deserve great credit for taking the constitution seriously and doing something about it. But constitutional amendments require great time and effort, and there is no guarantee the public will go along. And once in the constitution, the system will be difficult to change. Thus, before enshrining it there, we should ask whether the plan can be improved. It can. Many are concerned that the plan produces judges who are unaccountable to the public. Almost all power in the system rests in the hands of a small nominating commission. Although the governor has the final say on judges, he is required to pick one of the commission’s candidates. Although the public could later vote the commission’s judges out of office, it can do so only in referenda where the judges have no opponents. W ith no opponents, only one judge in 40 years has ever lost.|newswell|text|Opinion|p

Editorial: Evaluations under fire (Paris Post-Intelligencer)
Teachers chafing under the state’s new evaluation system have a lot of friends in the legislature. Nearly 20 bills to change the system were entered before Wednesday’s filing deadline. State education officials and the governor have urged that the system not be changed now in order to give it a fair trial, but opponents say it’s too unfair and time-consuming. One early bit of evidence is the wide range of ratings that has occurred in different school systems. The Tennessean in Nashville last month published a study showing that nearly half the teachers in the Murfreesboro City School received the superior score of 5 from their principals, while only 1 percent of the teachers in Fayette County Schools were ranked that high. An even bigger complaint is a common one from teachers and principals alike: The evaluation process is so complicated and time-consuming that it blurs the focus on teaching students and managing schools. “At the end of the day, it’s not about having spotless evaluations, but making sure students are learning the things they need to be successful,” a Rutherford County teacher said. Gov. Bill Haslam wants lawmakers to hold off on making changes until a task force makes its recommendations in June. But some say the plan is so warped that it needs to be fixed now. 14

Guest columnist: Class size, salary plan disregards expert studies (Tennessean)
Tennessee’s public school teachers and parents are in a state of shock following the recent education-related legislative proposals by Gov. Bill Haslam. Recurring complaints by educators throughout the state forced the governor to rethink the new, ill-advised, teacher evaluation system, Teacher Achievement Program (TAP). Now, Gov. Haslam is trying to increase the number of students that would be allowed in classrooms and change the way teachers are compensated. Again, he is proposing major legislative change in public education without wisely considering the overall merits of these proposed changes, and the long-term impact on the public education system in Tennessee. Both increasing class size and using incentive pay for teachers are propositions that are controversial and unjustified. As a component of school reform, they are supposed to improve student outcomes while reducing the overall costs of public education. Research performed in Tennessee shows that they will, most likely, do neither. Unfortunately, the governor is ignoring two of the most important education research studies performed on these two topics. Both are highly regarded, nationally known studies, and were carried out in Tennessee. And both contradict what Gov. Haslam is proposing.|newswell|text|Opinion|p

Guest columnists: Time to fund for New Madrid quake is now (Tennessean)
Some of us may remember drills in school during the Cold War that had us prepare for a nuclear attack by hiding under desks and covering them in sheets. Fortunately, it never became a live exercise. Next week, 1.7 million people in nine states will participate in the Great Central U.S. ShakeOut drill ( to learn how to survive a different kind of catastrophe that is almost certain to occur again. Two hundred years ago, the last in a series of earthquakes struck in New Madrid, Mo., midway between St. Louis and Memphis. The earthquakes were equal in force to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake but affected an area 10 times larger. They changed the course of the Mississippi River, formed new lakes, damaged structures as far away as Cincinnati, and rang church bells in Boston. Their shock waves covered more than 1 million square miles. A 2010 study by the University of Illinois found that a modern-day replay of the New Madrid earthquakes would be a megacatastrophe. Over an eight-state region, it could render 7 million people homeless, damage 715,000 buildings, and cause total economic harm approaching $1 trillion. The human toll would be enormous; the economic toll would be paralyzing. odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Opinion|p

Editorial: ET congressmen must fight for OR cleanup dollars (News-Sentinel)
Stimulus funds used for environmental cleanup projects in Oak Ridge masked a troubling condition — the amount of money devoted each year to pay for cleanup activities has dwindled. The U.S. Department of Energy recently received its long-overdue budget numbers for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, and the Environmental Management budget for Oak Ridge is $80 million below the historic $500 million a year average. For years, $500 million was considered the minimum amount needed annually to finish the Oak Ridge cleanup in a timely manner. The cleanup money available for FY2012 is $420 million. While that is $20 million more than President Barack Obama had requested and $40 million more than local DOE officials had feared, it's woefully short of what is necessary to keep the cleanup momentum moving forward. East Tennessee's congressional representatives should demand more funding in next year's budget. U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, along with the three House members who have constituents who live or work in Oak Ridge — U.S. Reps. John J. Duncan Jr., Chuck Fleischmann and Scott DesJarlais — must be strong advocates for more cleanup money. ###