You are on page 1of 8

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2012 Snap-On Tools expanding in Elizabethton (Busines Clarksville

)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, joined company and local officials Thursday afternoon in announcing that Snap-on Tools will expand its Elizabethton facility. Established in 1974, the Carter County location manufactures hand tools used primarily in the professional automotive repair industry. Snap-on’s expansion announcement is another example of Tennessee’s business friendly climate, and I thank company officials for their decision to grow in the Elizabethton community. “Existing industry expansions are the key to growing our state’s economy and, will help make our goal of becoming the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs, a reality,” Haslam said. “The importance and support of existing industries in Tennessee should not be underestimated. “Expansions by companies like Snap-on Tools that have long-standing relationships within their communities drive job creation for our entire state. I thank Snap-on Tools for its continued investment in Tennessee and our citizens,” Hagerty said. http://businessclarksville.com/2012/02/26/snap-on-tools-expanding-in-elizabethton-39716/

Jostens settles into bigger facility at Clarksville Business Park (Leaf Chronicle)
Company consolidated yearbook operations here, bringing 100 additional jobs Jostens is settling into its new location at the Clarksville-Montgomery County Corporate Business Park. The company moved there this year from its longtime location on state Highway 48/13, and announced it would consolidate its yearbook printing operations in Clarksville, bringing about 100 additional jobs. Jostens has moved into the 575,000-square-foot former Quad Graphics building on International Boulevard. The property sits on 75 acres and has about 20 acres remaining for expansion, according to the ClarksvilleMontgomery County Economic Development Council. EDC President & CEO James Chavez said for the move and expansion, Jostens was offered “aggressive tax incentives” as an existing industry. The company now has about 500 employees at its Clarksville plant. Jostens is based in Minneapolis, Minn., and its products include yearbooks and other memory book products, scholastic products such as class rings and graduation memorabilia, and products for athletic champions and fans. It is a subsidiary of Visant Corporation and has other yearbook locations in Topeka, Kan., and Visalia, Calif. http://www.theleafchronicle.com/article/20120226/NEWS01/302260030/Jostens-settles-into-biggerfacility-Clarksville-Business-Park

Republican governors concerned about primary race (Associated Press)
Democratic governors are bullish on President Barack Obama's re-election prospects, citing the improving economy and a Republican nominating contest that has exposed deep divisions in the party's base. Republican governors insist Obama is vulnerable, but they say they are concerned the prolonged primary race has alienated independent voters and may have badly damaged the eventual nominee. Democratic enthusiasm and Republican apprehension were both on display at the winter meeting of the National Governor's Association, an annual four-day conference where states' top executives gather to discuss policy and trade ideas on best practices but where politics is always close to the surface. In interviews, many Democratic governors seemed almost giddy about Obama's chances of winning a second term. They pointed to the improving employment figures, which have helped raise state revenues after years of painful budget cuts. The national unemployment rate stood at 8.3 percent in January, down from a high of 10 percent in October 2009. http://www.news9.com/story/17017707/gop-governors-concerned-about-long-primary-race

APSU child center gets Gold Sneaker Award (Leaf Chronicle)
Last year, Connie Sanders, director of the Austin Peay State University Child Learning Center, became concerned about the preschool-aged children under her care. Many of them brought sack lunches with junk food and sugary treats, and she knew they weren’t getting enough exercise at home. Obesity and diabetes loomed in their future, she worried, so Sanders and her staff decided to do something before it was too late. “We completely revamped our menus,” she said. “We don’t serve sugar at all. We serve fresh fruits as often as we can. W e also do more than 30 minutes of physical activity with the children every day, in addition to the time we spend outside.” These changes, along with APSU’s decision to go smoke-free, caught the attention Gov. Bill Haslamand on Jan. 4 he named the Child Learning of , Center a Gold Sneaker Facility. The center is one of seven child care centers in Montgomery County to receive the designation. http://www.theleafchronicle.com/article/20120226/NEWS01/302260036

Tenn. state parks celebrate 75 years (Associated Press)
Tennessee state parks are celebrating a milestone this year — it's their 75th anniversary. The park system was launched in 1937 through legislation creating the Tennessee Department of Conservation. Now, the state has 53 parks spread from the Mississippi Delta to Southern Appalachia ensuring that all residents live within an hour's drive of at least one. "Our parks are more relevant today than ever," Brock Hill, Tennessee's deputy commissioner for parks and conservation, told the Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/ysdm8m ). "We have the second-most-visited state park system in the Southeast outside of Florida. I don't believe you'll find a system in the country as diverse as what we have right here." Noting the diversity of the state's landscape, he says Tennessee parks are the most visited in the southeast outside of Florida. Plus, the park system was named best in America by the National Recreation and Park Association in 2007. On one side of the state, Fort Pillow State Historic Park sits atop Chickasaw Bluffs, which overlooks the Mississippi River. At the other end is Roan Mountain State Park, which rises to 6,285 feet and is known for its grassy balds and rhododendron gardens. http://www.tennessean.com/usatoday/article/38659623?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|News|s

Critics question Appeal/Charlier)

Fayette

County

I-40

interchange

project

(C.

TDOT to acquire right-of-way Twelve miles out Interstate 40 from Wolfchase Galleria Mall, state transportation officials are laying the groundwork for another potential commercial mecca on a site now dominated by pastures, two-lane roads and lush fields of grass sod. The Tennessee Department of Transportation plans to build a $24 million interchange at I-40 and Tenn. 196, also known as Hickory Withe Road, in Fayette County. Having already spent $739,000 on design, the department recently received approval to use another $1.9 million to buy the right-of-way this year. Located nearly four miles northeast of the Airline Road exit at Arlington and six miles southwest of the Tenn. 59 exit, the interchange will provide improved access to western Fayette County, especially Gallaway and the Hickory Withe community, while easing traffic on U.S. 64, according to TDOT and local officials. It also will offer an eastern route from I-40 into Arlington. But the project already has drawn objections from critics who call it an unnecessary drain on dwindling federal road funds that will serve only to accelerate urban sprawl. "W e really question whether this is the kind of project that our region should be prioritizing," said Sarah Newstok, program manager with the nonprofit group Livable Memphis, which advocates sustainable development with less dependence on motor vehicles. http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2012/feb/26/critics-question-highway-project/ (SUBSCRIPTION)

Ledfords push for passage of ‘Dustin’s Law’ (Cleveland Daily Banner)
Danny and Kim Ledford have been on a mission to strengthen state laws after their only son was killed by an impaired driver in the summer of 2010. They met in Nashville with Gov. Bill Haslam earlier this month to discuss a bill that would lessen the requirements for meeting the legal definition of aggravated vehicular homicide. “A vehicle is as deadly as a gun,” Kim Ledford said. “A weapon is a weapon whether it is a vehicle or a loaded gun.” Although the parents will not have an answer until the fall when Haslam begins work on the 2013-14 budget, Kim Ledford said they left the meeting feeling encouraged and with a “very good impression” of the governor. “We left the meeting with a very good impression,” 2

Kim Ledford said Thursday. “It was encouraging that he wanted to listen to what I had to say.” http://www.clevelandbanner.com/view/full_story/17658737/article-Ledfords-push-for-passage-of%E2%80%98Dustin%E2%80%99s-Law%E2%80%99?instance=main_article

Officials aim to restrict diversion of patients (News-Sentinel/Nelson)
At a Feb. 8 state House committee meeting, Knoxville Reps. Steve Hall and Joe Armstrong both asked Commissioner of Mental Health Douglas Varney about a "blacklist" that allegedly allowed local psychiatrist hospitals to turn away certain patients — patients, Armstrong said, Lakeshore Mental Health Institute has filled the "role" of taking in the past. "Effectively, we have not gotten rid of that 'blacklist'" with the contracts that are currently in place, Armstrong said, echoing concerns advocates, families and Lakeshore employees have voiced at various public meetings. "We've had multiple meetings talking about issues like blacklisting," Varney told committee members, adding that "admissions policies" will be addressed in the new contracts with providers. Varney said he envisioned beds at Middle Tennessee State Mental Health Institute in Nashville, where patients will be sent if local providers can't handle them, as a "safety valve" for patients who meet very specific criteria — not as a dumping ground. Tony Spezia, CEO of Covenant Health, which owns Peninsula, said it has been taking "more challenging patients" all along. "We've essentially been seeing Lakeshore patients for a number of years," as the state facility has downsized, Spezia said. "Our admissions have been three times what Lakeshore's are." http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/feb/26/officials-aim-to-restrict-diversion-of-patients/

W ith Lakeshore (NS/Nelson)

closing,

providers

say

funding

services

'critical'

It appears likely the state Legislature will approve Commissioner of Mental Health Douglas Varney's extensive plan to revamp East Tennessee's mental-health services, which includes closing Knoxville's Lakeshore Mental Health Institute and giving state funds to private providers. Key is his proposal to increase funds to three East Tennessee acute-care psychiatric hospitals — Peninsula in Knoxville, Ridgeview Psychiatric Hospital in Oak Ridge and Woodridge Hospital in Johnson City — for the care of patients who don't have TennCare, Medicare or commercial insurance, who are often diverted to state institutes. For more than three years, the state has used $1.9 million to buy spaces for "indigent" patients at those facilities, within the limits set by the facilities' licenses. Varney's new budget proposes $8 million to pay for those patients, to replace the patient "beds" lost when Lakeshore closes. It's a better deal for the state. Not only does the federal government pick up one-third of the tab when TennCare patients (35 percent of Lakeshore patients) are treated at private, rather than state-run, facilities, but Lakeshore's overhead is also much higher, with beds costing upward of $900 per day — about double the cost of a bed at a private hospital, Varney said. http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/feb/26/with-lakeshore-closing-providers-say-funding-is/

NAACP leaders blast TN's voter ID law (Tennessean/Young)
State and national NAACP leaders held a news conference Saturday in opposition to Tennessee’s voter identification law, which passed last May. They say the law, which requires residents to submit a photo ID to vote, is a “racial disparity issue.” “This state is seeking to go back to the days before we had the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” said NAACP state President Gloria Sweetlove. “We stand here and ask every person to fight with us.” Under the 1965 law, voting practices and procedures discriminating on the the basis of race, color or language were prohibited. The NAACP’s take on the current law is that it is discriminatory against certain populations, including African-Americans, the poor, immigrants, women and senior citizens. But proponents of the law, including state Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, say that’s not the case, adding that legislators modeled the Tennessee law after a 2005 Indiana law that has been challenged and upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court. “In that case, the justices found that the burden for an election to be pure and true was more important than anything,” Maggart said. “The burden of having to go and get a photo ID was not greater than the burden of having a true, honest election.” http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120226/NEW S21/302260074/NAACP-leaders-blast-TN-s-voterID-law?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|News

3

How do Hamilton County commissioners spend $1 million? (TFP/Haman)
Both Republicans running for the Hamilton County Commission District 3 seat want residents to be able to monitor in real time how commissioners spend more than $1 million in annual discretionary funds. Right now, the county's Finance Department is the only place to get information about the accounts. The County Commission office doesn't maintain copies of the records. Marty Haynes, who first raised the issue, said the information should be available online. "Most people don't know where that money goes," he said. "What I'd like to see is the day you spent the money and what it went for specifically." Commissioners have steered discretionary money in the past two years to projects such as Shackleford Ridge Park, high school sports uniforms and bleachers, the YMCA, parent-teacher association meetings and a prayer breakfast. Haynes said he doesn't have a problem with the way money is being spent, but the process should be more transparent. Commissioner Mitch McClure, who is defending the District 3 seat he was appointed to last January, said he posted his discretionary expenditure list on his campaign website after Haynes began talking about the steps he had to take to get the information. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/feb/26/how-do-commissioners-spend-1-million/?local

Memphis sinking in debt, city council hears (Commercial Appeal/Loller)
Daylong retreat emphasizes seriousness of city's situation A city budget retreat Saturday turned Memphis into a metaphor. It was represented by the Titanic sinking into a sea of debt. "Memphis doesn't have much margin for error," said housing and community development director Robert Lipscomb at the Saturday retreat at FedEx Family House. Lipscomb's PowerPoint presentation -- with the upended Titanic slipping into the sea -- helped set the stage for the next month and a half. On April 17, Mayor AC Wharton will present his budget for fiscal 2013. Between now and then, the mayor said, he will be meeting individually with each City Council member to discuss ideas and "hammer out a solution" with options ranging from higher property taxes to cutting city services or city employees. The measures would be intended to stanch the red ink in a $17 million budget deficit this year and a projected deficit of $47 million next year. As it is, the deficits would continue for at least the next four budget years, according to projections by city finance director Roland McElrath. Wharton said he is looking beyond the city's usual Band-Aid approach to budgets and trying to create a five-year strategic plan. "How do we change the way we're doing business instead of just lurching from year to year? I want to set us on a course so that we don't have to come together once a year in crisis mode." http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2012/feb/26/sinking-in-debt-council-hears/ (SUBSCRIPTION)

Rick Santorum leads big in TN, poll finds (Tennessean/Cass)
But presidential race is still fluid, analyst says Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has brought his national momentum to Tennessee, outdistancing Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney by a nearly 2-to-1 margin among voters taking part in a new Vanderbilt University poll. But with Tennessee’s GOP primary now just nine days away, the race here remains fluid because one in four potential voters say they don’t know or don’t like any of the candidates, said Vanderbilt political scientist John Geer. “As big a theme as Santorum leading is that a lot of people haven’t made up their minds,” said Geer, co-director of the Vanderbilt Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. The center commissioned the survey of 1,508 registered Tennessee voters — including 815 who indicated a preference for a Republican candidate — Feb. 16-22, during the first week of early voting. The poll had a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points. The poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, found that 33 percent of registered voters who are considering voting in the primary would push the button for Santorum, compared with 17 percent for Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120226/NEW S02/302260066/Rick-Santorum-leads-big-TN-pollfinds?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Santorum brings national spotlight to Hixson (Times Free-Press/Carroll)
If you saw Rick Santorum on CNN or Fox News on Saturday, the backdrop likely was Abba’s House in Hixson, where the latest Republican presidential front-runner temporarily thrust Chattanooga into the national political spotlight. Wearing a blue blazer, open-collared shirt and jeans at the Southern Baptist megachurch, Santorum headlined the Chattanooga Tea Party’s “Liberty Forum,” calling President Barack Obama a “snob” for saying every American child should go to college and promoting his own version of family values. “True happiness comes from doing God’s will,” the Roman Catholic former U.S. 4

senator from Pennsylvania said. “It comes not from doing what you want to do, but doing what you ought to do.” A 34-second round of applause filled the 3,100-seat facility, where organizers hung drapes over some empty upper tiers. The father of seven children, Santorum is well-known for his opposition to contraception, gay marriage and all forms of abortion, themes he briefly explored during a 53-minute speech. “It’s one thing to be pro-life; it’s another thing to go out and fight for life,” he said. “I have fought for life.” http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/feb/26/rick-santorum-brings-national-spotlight-hixson-cam/? local

Basketball tournaments boost Nashville's economy, profile (TN/Marsteller)
A basketball blitz is about to hit Nashville starting in three days, and Andrew Putman can’t wait. The Bailey’s Pub & Grille manager expects sales to at least double starting Wednesday, when Nashville plays host to the first of four college basketball tournaments linked to that annual rite of hoops passage — March Madness. “It’s huge business,” said Putman, whose restaurant has been a purveyor of drinks and grub on Lower Broadway for a dozen years. “W e’re probably going to set our sales record for the month of March.” The madness begins W ednesday, when the Ohio Valley Conference men’s and women’s tournaments tip off at Municipal Auditorium. A Murray State alumni group already has reserved Bailey’s entire second floor for much of the four-day tournament’s run. Almost simultaneously, the Southeastern Conference’s women’s tournament will start rolling on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena. Then the arena will host early-round NCAA men’s games in mid-March when postseason play picks up steam. Besides pumping at least $15 million into the local economy, the tournaments will further solidify Nashville’s growing stature as a sports destination, outside experts say. And Music City wants an even greater sports-related economic jolt. Local officials hope to land an NHL All-Star game, the NCAA “Frozen Four” hockey tournament and some Olympics trials, among other events, in coming years. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120226/BUSINESS01/302260054/Basketball-tournaments-boostNashville-s-economy-profile?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

W ide disparity shown in teachers' ratings (Jackson Sun)
Public school systems vary widely in how they rate teachers under a new evaluation system, and the ratings often have little correlation to a school system’s performance on the state report card, according to a review of eight West Tennessee school systems. In Fayette County, for instance, only 1.3 percent of teachers have received a rating of 5, the highest possible rating. But in Hardin County, 31.5 percent of teachers have received the top rating. Two school systems that have fared poorly on state report cards — Jackson-Madison County and Humboldt City — were among the districts that gave out the largest percentage of 5 ratings to teachers. Similar variations have been recorded across the state, raising questions about the fairness of Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system, which was implemented in August. Some lawmakers and the state teachers’ union have called for a retooling of the process. Jackson-Madison County Superintendent Buddy White said this year may show the widest discrepancy between student test scores and teacher evaluation scores because it is the first year of the evaluation system.http://www.jacksonsun.com/article/20120226/NEW S01/302260006/Wide-disparityshown-teachers-ratings

Nashville charter schools (Tennessean/Hubbard)

blasted

over

racial

imbalance

Lawyer in rezoning case says imbalance is 'proof' against Metro The racial imbalance in Nashville’s charter schools is the newest issue in a federal lawsuit against the school district. All of them have 80 percent or more black enrollment, but in recent weeks, a charter school group from Arizona has been gauging parents’ interest in predominantly white neighborhoods. That’s also drawing attention from plaintiffs’ attorney Larry Woods. Woods represents a family in a 3-year-old federal lawsuit against Metro Nashville Public Schools over rezoning they say is causing resegregation. “The charter schools appear to be racially isolated schools,” Woods said. “A new (proposed) charter made a presentation in town recently and didn’t come out and say it would be an all-white school but led people to believe it would only draw from their neighborhoods. “That’s the kind of proof we are going to put on.” Allison L. Bussell, an assistant Metro attorney, said in an email that the school district’s opinion on W oods’ stance is clear — the district is asking for a dismissal and summary judgment in its favor. Other officials said charter schools had no choice but to be racially imbalanced because of old state laws that govern them. The 5

basis of the Jeffrey and Frances Spurlock case centers on Metro’s 2009 rezoning plan, which sent their daughter to John Early Middle, closer to their home, instead of Bellevue Middle. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120226/NEW S04/302260061/Nashville-charter-schools-blastedover-racial-imbalance?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|News

Massachusetts: New Massachusetts Law Allows for Building 3 Casinos (NY Times)
Spurred on by a gambling law so new that the agency charged with enforcing it does not yet exist, developers are scouring this state for places to build casinos — looking in cities and on the coast, off the Massachusetts Turnpike, by the stadium where the New England Patriots play, and even in little towns like this one, known for its summer antiques fairs and not much else. Brimfield, population 3,600, would be perfect for a “New England-style resort in the woods,” says MGM Resorts International, the company that owns the Bellagio, the Mirage and other giants of the Las Vegas strip. After shunning the concept for years, Massachusetts, seeking solutions to its budget woes, last fall became the first New England state to pass a broad law allowing resort casinos. Now others may not be far behind. Under the Massachusetts law, which allows for three casinos to be built in three different regions, the state will pocket 25 percent of the gambling proceeds, plus 40 percent of the proceeds from a separate slot parlor that it will also allow. It is a potential bonanza that, combined with thousands of promised jobs, has much of New England poised to cast aside Yankee restraint and follow suit. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/us/new-law-in-massachusetts-allows-for-three-casinos.html? _r=1&ref=todayspaper (SUBSCRIPTION)

OPINION Robert Martineau: TDEC had to change to serve the state (Tennessean)
Bureaucracy was disliked by environmentalists and business Gov. Bill Haslam has it right: It’s a false choice to say Tennessee can either grow its economy or protect its environment. During his campaign, Gov. Haslam stated, “it’s not one or the other — it’s both.” As commissioner of the Department of Environment and Conservation, I’ve learned that some who follow our work closely say we should be at odds with those bringing new industry and jobs to Tennessee. These people see public policy as a zerosum game, where one side must prevail to the exclusion of others. In doing so, they promote the false choice Haslam so rightly rejects. When we promote these false choices, we break faith with the people of Tennessee, who see state government not as a disjointed collection of departments dominated by single-issue activists, but as one government serving them. That’s why we elect one governor — and not a referee — to lead the state in a single, positive course. Shortly after he took office, Haslam challenged his entire cabinet to conduct a searching Top to Bottom Review of the departments in our charge. After a year of careful study that included extensive feedback from employees and stakeholders, one message came through loud and clear: While the department is full of many dedicated public servants with great technical expertise, TDEC had to change. Environmentalists and business leaders alike agreed our processes had become too slow and too unpredictable. Our best employees were stymied by a cumbersome bureaucracy that often created disjointed policy and no longer rewarded individual effort and creativity. 6

http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120226/OPINION03/302260039/TDEC-had-change-serve-state? odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Opinion|p

Editorial: Public is shut out of state business (Tennessean)
Access to your information is tightening A little over a year into Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, it may be time to break out the Windex. Those windows meant to allow sunlight onto how state officials handle your affairs have become clouded and dingy. Yes, even though the governor on his first day in office in January 2011 stated that “the rule should be, the more you can be in the open, the better,” in numerous ways the administration is moving to reduce transparency in state government. It isn’t that Tennesseans were not warned. On the same day as the governor made that statement, he signed an executive order eliminating requirements for him and top aides to disclose how much they earn in outside income. But it was day one — give-the-new-guy-a-chance day, if you will. In the intervening months, here is what the Haslam administration has done with that chance: Given verbal support to efforts to charge fees to anyone who makes a request for public records, even though state law guarantees the right to public records. Haslam, in a speech to the Tennessee Press Association earlier this month, said he was working on an open-records policy for his administration that would provide a “fair, reasonable way to pay for records requests.” He cited a case in which, when he was running for mayor of Knoxville, a political opponent was able to file requests for copious records on Haslam to seek negative information on him at taxpayer expense. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120226/OPINION01/302260031/Public-shut-out-state-business? odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Opinion|p

Editorial: Time to fight gang activity head on (Jackson Sun)
Major efforts are under way in Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga to fight street gang activity. Legislative approaches are being considered in the Tennessee General Assembly to create tougher laws dealing with gang activity. New uses of technology are being applied to the fight against gangs. It is our hope that some of these efforts will spread to Jackson and rural West Tennessee where increased gang recruitment has been observed. A U.S. Justice Department survey shows 27,000 gangs and 800,000 gang members operating across all 50 states. Some estimates put the numbers even higher. A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report shows police have identified 5,000 gang members in Davidson County alone. Comparable numbers can be found in Memphis and Chattanooga. But that doesn’t mean gang activity isn’t happening in rural areas. In fact, some of the greatest growth in gang activity is in smaller communities. Gov. Bill Haslam has proposed enhanced punishments for gangrelated crimes, including tougher sentences for felons found in possession of a weapon and people committing crimes in groups of three or more. In Chattanooga, Mayor Ron Littlefield is behind bills that would make it a felony to aid and abet gang activity and add “street gangs” to the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act that addresses organized crime. http://www.jacksonsun.com/article/20120226/OPINION/302260002/Our-View-Time-fight-gang-activityhead-on

Gail Kerr: GOP, thanks for diluting 'Don't Say Gay.' Now kill it. (Tennessean)
Give credit where credit is due. Kudos to Gov. Bill Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell for slowing the runaway train that the proposed “Don’t Say Gay” bill appeared to be riding last week. The controversial and hateful legislation, which would forbid teachers and guidance counselors from any mention of homosexuality with students in elementary and middle schools, looked like it was heading for a key committee vote when something interesting happened. All the Republicans on the committee disappeared. It turns out they were holed up in Harwell’s office with a member of Haslam’s administration. Bill sponsors appear to have been swayed by school counselors who said it would tie their hands in helping students. An amendment is expected that would drastically water down the bill. The proposed version of the law would still discourage any formal lessons about being gay in grades younger than ninth grade. But it would basically turn over decision-making about what can and cannot be talked about to local school officials. Teachers and counselors would be able to answer questions raised by students about sexuality. Among the concerns guidance counselors had was that the bill would prevent them from posting suicide prevention posters that referenced sexual identity, make gay 7

teachers have to hide photos of their partners, and put a halt to conversations with middle school students struggling with a confusing time in their lives with feelings that are new and unfamiliar. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120226/COLUMNIST0101/302260042/Gail-Kerr-GOP-thanksdiluting-Don-t-Say-Gay-Now-kill-?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|News|p

Editorial: Time to protect state's peaks from harmful mining (News-Sentinel)
Two efforts — one in the state Legislature and the other at the federal level — would work together to end the threat of mountaintop removal coal mining in Tennessee. The two initiatives would work handin-hand to protect Tennessee's mountains while allowing responsible coal mining as long as the ridgetops aren't touched. Neither the federal ruling nor the state bill would ban all coal mining. Operators would be able to run strip or underground mines up to the edge of the buffer zones. Only the ridgetops would be off-limits. Mountaintop removal is a particularly devastating technique for getting at coal seams. The top of a mountain is blasted away so workers can mine the coal. The rubble is dumped into ravines, leaving unsightly, unnatural mesas and fouled waterways. Cross-ridge mining is a form of mountaintop removal in which the spoil is placed back on top of the mountain and sculpted to the approximate original contours of the peak. Mountaintop removal is more common in Kentucky and West Virginia, while in Tennessee only cross-ridge mining has been approved. The U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is preparing an environmental impact statement to be used to determine whether to end mountaintop mining in certain areas of the Cumberland Mountains. http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/feb/26/editorial-time-to-protect-states-peaks-from/

Tom Humphrey: 'Summer study' is where bills go to die quiet deaths (N-S)
It took about three minutes to deftly destroy the latest effort to impose term limits on state legislators. The maneuver, accomplished with bipartisan collaboration, assures that no term limits can be put in place for another decade or so and that there's really no record of anyone being against the idea. The effort was HJR625, crafted by Rep. Art Swann, R-Maryville, with a good bit of thought. Basically, it provided that state representatives — in exchange for term limits — would have their term of office changed from two years to four years, then be limited to serving no more than three terms or 12 years. Swan brought the bill before the House State and Local Government Subcommittee last week and gave a brief explanation. Whereupon House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said the measure seemed to have some merit, but also raised questions and declared it needed to be studied. He thereupon made a motion that the proposal be sent to "summer study." No member of the subcommittee, which has a Republican majority, raised any objection to the motion, and the chairman, Republican Rep. Ryan Haynes of Knoxville, promptly declared that it had passed. And HJR625 was shuttled off to a summer study that, in all probability, will never occur. http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/feb/26/tom-humphrey-summer-study-is-where-bills-go-to/

###

8