Originally published on Fri August 2, 2013 6:05 pm
Bick Boyte plops a 1-pound bullfrog in his aluminum canoe, still half alive. He resumes his kneeling position, perched upfront, on the hunt for a big bellower. Boyte hears the "wom, wom, wom" and knows frogs are within reach.
Boyte and Tommy Peebles have been "gigging" Tennessee ponds together since their daddies first taught them. Boyte now owns a truck dealership. Peebles is a real estate lawyer. But in the warm moonlight, they revert to their boyhoods. Peebles does the paddling.
Some early results released from a Vanderbilt University study on the impact of pre-K education show a mixed bag. The findings so far indicate that Tennessee children who make big gains in math, reading, and language by attending pre-kindergarten don’t stay ahead of their peers for long.
But the research also shows those same children can learn other behaviors that benefit them down the road.
The Tennessean reports that Vanderbilt University researchers are counseling patience regarding the unprecedented study, which follows 3,000 Tennessee children from age 4 through third grade, through the year 2015.
One early takeaway from the study: students who attend preschool are promoted from kindergarten to first grade at twice the rate of those who don’t, and have higher first grade attendance. Researchers are wondering whether those kinds of achievements are actually better predictors of long-term academic success, as opposed to focusing solely on a child’s early academic abilities.
Residents opposed to a Tennessee mosque are trying to take their case to the state Supreme Court. The Tennessean reports the plaintiffs are hoping the high court will hear the case and overrule a Tennessee Appeals Court decision in late May.
That ruling supported a decision by the Rutherford County Regional Planning Commission to approve construction plans for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
Some mosque opponents said they opposed the new facility because it would cause traffic problems, while others said the Muslims worshipping in the mosque were attempting to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and replace it with Islamic law.
A local Chancellor ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 2012, saying the county failed to provide adequate public notice before the planning commission approved the mosque plans. But a federal court in Tennessee later intervened, overruling the Chancellor’s decision and allowing the construction to move forward.
Tennessee is, for a fourth consecutive year, ranked No. 1 in automotive manufacturing strength in the nation.
Economic development publication Business Facilities has released its annual ranking, showing Tennessee the top state.
Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty called the ranking "an impressive distinction" and said expansions and relocations by automotive manufacturers like General Motors, Nissan, and Volkswagen, and Magneti Marelli further solidify the state's position globally.
With the auto plants and those of their suppliers, there are more than 900 automotive plants in the state. In fiscal 2012-2013, 44 automotive projects created 6,662 new jobs in Tennessee and investments totaled close to $1.1 billion.
Attorneys representing Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and state agencies are appealing a federal court ruling that says members of the group Occupy Nashville were illegally arrested two years ago.
U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger decided last month that Tennessee and local agencies improperly handled protests by the group Occupy Nashville during the fall of 2011. State officials said the Occupy encampment at the War Memorial Plaza was a public safety concern.
The Tennessean reports Judge Trauger said that when arrests were made the state was essentially making law by fiat and violating the first amendment rights of protesters.
Tennessee officials created what they called a “use policy” that essentially outlawed overnight use of the plaza for assembling. After some protesters refused to leave, the Tennessee Highway Patrol arrested 55 people.
Following the arrests, a federal court issued a restraining order, preventing the state from enforcing its new policy.
Tennessee’s junior U.S. Senator is asking the White House to provide arms to certain groups within the Syrian opposition.
Republican Bob Corker wrote a letter to President Obama this week, urging him to allow lethal aid to vetted elements within the opposition who aren’t hardline Islamists.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Corker, the ranking member of the GOP on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, argued in his letter that providing arms to secular elements in the Syrian opposition would “shift momentum away from radical Islamist groups, the Assad regime and its militias toward more moderate elements and could help alter the balance of power on the ground at a time when negotiations over a political settlement have stalled.”
Some senior U.S. officials told the Journal that Corker’s proposal would have little more than symbolic value at this point, given that arms are already widely available inside Syria.
A recent report on the welfare of children in Tennessee highlights the importance of public programs.
State health and child welfare experts have released the latest Kids Count report, which this year examined challenges to raising children in Tennessee, and whether state programs are doing enough to help them.
Among the report's findings was that nearly half of the state's pregnant women don't receive adequate prenatal care, and less than a third of teens from poor families are finding work.
Linda O'Neal is executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth and was among those discussing the report.
According to The Tennessean, O'Neal said the poor economy has hurt the welfare of children in Tennessee, which "highlights the importance of public programs" like the one that provides in-home visits for families with newborns.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has signed into law a reduction in the state's sales tax on groceries.
Starting July 1, Tennessee shoppers will pay a 5% sales tax on retail food items. That's a reduction from the current 5.25% tax and down from 5.5% in the previous budget year. The regular sales tax is 7%, while local governments can add an additional tax of up to 2.75%.
he reduction in the sales tax on groceries was part of Haslam's legislative agenda and was approved in tandem with cuts to the state's taxes on inheritance, gifts and income from interest and dividends.
Media organizations in Tennessee are balking at the amount the Department of Children’s Services is charging for copies of records related to DCS cases.
The media outlets have for months been seeking records for children with prior DCS contact who died or nearly died in the months leading up to July, 2012. After a judge ordered copies of 50 such cases to be handed over to journalists, the DCS tried to charge $9,000 for the records.
The Tennessean newspaper reports its attorney, Robb Harvey, has filed a complaint with the judge point out that the amount the DCS is seeking is nearly nine times what the judge had previously said was reasonable.
DCS attorneys say the extra costs are necessary so that paralegals can be hired and trained to review the case records that are being released to media.
The Tennessee Department of Children's Services is reviewing its actions after a 17-year-old boy the agency was supervising gunned down a fellow high school student.
The Tennessean reports the teen was released from the DCS's Woodland Hills Development Center for delinquent youth in December. He was required to have regular monthly phone calls and visits with a caseworker, but at the time of the April 11 shooting no one at the agency had been able to make contact with him for nearly two months.
Interim DCS commissioner Jim Henry said he believes the agency acted appropriately but is assessing its actions. Henry said there was little in the teen's past to suggest he was capable of murder.
The teen is in juvenile detention awaiting a June 28 hearing.