Tag Archives: state

TN computer problems have cost taxpayers millions

The Tennessean has a Sunday review of multtmillion-dollar computer problems that have plagued Tennessee state government. Here’s the list of impacted agencies:

TennCare: The agency scrapped a $37.5 million computer system earlier this year after multiple failures kept people with disabilities as well as pregnant women from enrolling. The failures earned a sharp rebuke from federal Medicaid officials and a federal lawsuit.

Department of Children’s Services: Under orders from a federal judge, the department has poured millions of dollars into fixing hundreds of glitches in a computer system launched in 2011 to track child welfare and abuse cases. The costs have soared to $38 million since then. The department told a federal judge earlier this year that the majority of problems have been fixed.

Department of Human Services: The Department of Human Services in 2013 scrapped a 7-year-old, $20 million computer software system that was intended to modernize how the agency processes food stamps and Medicaid caseloads.

Department of Revenue: Failures of a new computer system within the Department of Revenue intended to track car titles cost taxpayers $40 million after the department spent 10 years developing it before conceding in 2013 it showed no signs of ever working.

Department of Labor and Workforce Development: The department’s computer system problems contributed to an estimated $98 million in unemployment claim overpayments during the past six years — including checks issued to prisoners, dead people and state employees — and those overpayments could balloon to $171 million, according to the Tennessee comptroller. The department’s problems may not be fixed until 2016, when four-decade-old mainframes are scheduled to be replaced.

The full story starts thusly:
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Hargett Becomes NASS President

News release from Secretary of State’s office:
ANCHORAGE, AK – The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), currently holding its annual summer conference in Anchorage, Alaska, today inducted its new slate of national officers for the 2013-2014 cycle. Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett will serve as president of the professional organization for state officials through July 2014, marking the first time in more than three decades that a Tennessee official has held this position.
“I look forward to continuing the strong leadership that my predecessors have provided to NASS for almost 110 years,” said Hargett of Tennessee. “Now more than ever, citizens are looking for collaborative bipartisan leadership from their state officials. Citizens are counting on us to lead the way in developing and sharing best practices for running honest and efficient elections, for increasing voter turnout and civic awareness and for protecting our people and our businesses from unnecessary federal laws and regulations.”
Hargett added that under his leadership, NASS will continue to serve as a forum where members can learn from each other how best to provide the services their offices are charged with delivering to the public.

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Fitch Ratings: TN Has Lowest State Debt in the Nation

News release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey:
(July 22, 2013, NASHVILLE) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and Senate Finance Chairman Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) today announced that Fitch Ratings officially declared Tennessee the lowest indebted state in the union. Fitch Ratings issued the finding in a special report on state pensions last week. The ranking is based on Tennessee’s net tax-supported debt and unfunded pension obligations as a percentage of personal income.
“This news proves once again that Tennessee can outperform any state in the union — even in the Obama economy,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey.  “While the federal government and other states are taxing, spending and leaving their grandchildren the bill, Tennessee continues to balance budgets and pay what we owe. I’m proud of our legislature, our Governor and our constitutional officers for their commitment to a lean and efficient state government that provides necessary services at minimal cost to taxpayers. It is that commitment that continues to attract businesses and families to our great state.”
Senate Finance Chairman Randy McNally concurred in celebrating the news.
“I’m grateful to Fitch Ratings for recognizing Tennessee’s commitment to fiscal discipline,” said Sen. McNally. “We work hard as a state government to live within our means and pay our debts promptly. I look forward every day to participating in Tennessee’s economic success story.”
Fitch Ratings State Pension Update special report published July 16, 2013 revealed that the median level for states’ combined net tax-supported debt plus unfunded pension liabilities measures 7.0 percent of 2012 personal income. Tennessee’s was lowest at 1.8 percent. The nation’s highest percentage was Illinois at 24.8 percent.
Fitch Ratings is a leading global rating agency which provides the world’s credit markets with independent credit opinions.  Fitch, together with Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, are the three nationally recognized statistical rating organizations designated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

TN Black Caucus Wants to Revisit ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law

News release from House Democratic Caucus:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (July 17, 2013) – The Tennessee Black Caucus released the following statement in response to the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida:
“This was a disappointing verdict that just goes to show we have a long way to go until all Americans enjoy true equal protection under the law,” said Rep. Larry Miller, Chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus. “While we mourn and pray with the Martin family, we must also work hard to stop this from happening to innocent children here in Tennessee.”
On Sunday July 14, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators released a statement of support for the Martin family and reiterated the NBCSL opposition to so-called “stand your ground” laws across the country. In December of 2012, NBCSL ratified resolution LJE-13-06 “urging state legislatures that have adopted ‘Stand Your Ground’ or ‘Shoot First’ laws to reform or repeal them and we also support the review and investigation by the United States Department of Justice referencing the Zimmerman case.”

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Trivia Question: Name 5 Tennesseans who became president

News release from Secretary of State’s office:
Here’s a quick trivia question: Can you name five Tennesseans who became president?
If you’re a good student of the state’s history, you probably won’t have any trouble naming former U.S. presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson or James K. Polk. But a fourth or fifth?
It’s a trick question, because there were also Tennesseans who later became presidents of foreign countries, such as Sam Houston, who led the briefly-independent Republic of Texas, and William Walker, who was inaugurated as president of Nicaragua on this date in 1856.
Walker’s life is highlighted in one of the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ online exhibits. The exhibit can be found at http://tn.gov/tsla/exhibits/walker/index.htm.
Walker isn’t as famous as some Tennesseans chronicled at the State Library and Archives, but in his day, he was quite infamous for his efforts to colonize Central America.
Three years before he became president of Nicaragua, the Nashvillian led a group of 45 men who landed in Baja California, Mexico. Walker declared the land to be the Republic of Lower California and proclaimed himself to be the new country’s president. Mexican forces soon threw him and his troops out of the country and he was tried (but acquitted) for violating U.S. neutrality laws when he returned.
Walker then led a group of 57 soldiers into Nicaragua. After fighting a number of battles and eventually becoming president, he launched a plan to “Americanize” the country by declaring English the official language and encouraging U.S. residents to immigrate there. He was later ousted by the combined forces of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. After unsuccessfully attempting to regain the presidency of Nicaragua, he was eventually captured and turned over to the Honduran government, which executed him for piracy.
“The story of William Walker is one of thousands that can be found at the Tennessee State Library and Archives,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “Because his life is chronicled in one of our online exhibits, it is accessible to Tennesseans free of charge, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. I encourage people to visit our web site and learn more about the resources that are just a few mouse clicks away.”

State Evaluating Bids for relocating displaced employees

Bids under seal with state officials could move the first workers out of the Cordell Hull Building and into private office space by March of next year, reports The Tennessean.
Six firms, including Lifeway Christian Resources and Bellsouth Telecommunications LLC, have submitted offers to lease out space for 301 workers in the Department of Children’s Services. The state plans to settle on a deal no later than Aug. 19.
The offers were made last week under a bidding process that also names Jones Lang LaSalle as the state’s broker, giving the Chicago real estate firm a 4 percent commission if a deal is closed.
The Department of General Services has refused to release information about the offers — apart from the bidders’ names — until a winner is chosen and a recommendation sent to the State Building Commission. Officials maintain that the state’s open records law allows them to accept real estate bids under seal.
About 1,000 state workers currently work in Cordell Hull, a nine-story office block next to the state Capitol. Citing a review done by Jones Lang LaSalle, state officials say water persistently seeps into the nearly 60-year-old building. They say it would cost the state more than $24 million to keep Cordell Hull in service.
Lawmakers approved a state budget in April that included funding to shut down Cordell Hull, an annex called the Central Services Building, the Tennessee Regulatory Authority’s headquarters and three other state buildings in Chattanooga and Memphis.


See also the Chattanooga TFP, which reports on six sealed bids for housing displaced Chattanooga state employees.

Building Commission Signs Off on Bledsoe Prison, ETSU, Memphis Projects

On Prisons
The State Building Commission on Thursday gave the green light to more than a half-billion dollars worth of construction and upgrades for dozens of projects, including a $30 million, 512-bed expansion of the Bledsoe Correctional Facility in Pikeville, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
The expansion will handle medium-security prisoners. The project also will provide minor modifications to house female inmates in separate security facilities within the complex.
Commission members also approved some $21 million to beef up security at state prisons, including $4.4 million for a specialty security contractor to replace what a Building Commission document described as “aging and failing locking systems” in facilities statewide.
Many of the projects were included in the new state budget that went into effect July 1 but required commission approval to proceed.


ETSU Football
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today announced the Tennessee State Building Commission’s approval of a project to build a new football stadium for East Tennessee State University.
From the Kingsport Times-News:
After a decade-long hiatus, ETSU has recently rebooted its football program under the supervision of former University of Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer. Last month, ETSU hired former University of North Carolina coach Carl Torbush as the university’s new head coach for the program.
“I’m so proud to have football coming back to the East Tennessee State University. College is first and foremost about academics but a full and complete college experience is crucial to attracting top top-quality students to the university,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey.
“The return of football to the ETSU campus will enrich university life in so many ways. But the first step to building a great football program is building a high-quality facility. I’m excited that the commission has approved this outstanding project.”

Privatized Housing at U of M
The long-delayed Highland Row project near the University of Memphis may finally start construction this fall, as a result of a new affiliation agreement U of M is proposing with a private nonprofit developer for the residential space in the upper floors of the multiuse center, reports the Commercial Appeal.
The university asked the State Building Commission Thursday to fast-track approval of an agreement with Alabama-based Collegiate Housing Foundation that will help arrange financing. Under the agreement, rental of the apartments will be limited to U of M students, faculty and staff and the University of Memphis name will be affixed to the privately owned and managed facility.
…Memphis-based Poag & McEwen Lifestyle Centers announced the $65 million Highland Row in 2008 but was unable to obtain financing when the recession deepened. It will have retail space on its ground floor, anchored by a 40,000-square-foot full-service Barnes & Noble bookstore that will serve as the university’s official bookstore.
Apartments were always planned for the upper three floors but the affiliation agreement is new, putting the U of M brand on it as “affiliated housing” and limiting occupancy to about 550 students and employees.

June State Revenue Again Over Budget (but ‘weak’)

News release from Department of Finance and Administration:
NASHVILLE – Total Tennessee tax collections for June were weak, but exceeded budgeted expectations. Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin reports that overall June revenues were $1.2 billion, which is $3.2 million more than the state budgeted. It marks the 11th consecutive month this year in which total collections have experienced positive growth.
Sales tax collections in June were flat, while corporate tax collections exceeded the budgeted estimate. All other tax sources, taken as a group, were above the budgeted estimates.
“The year-to-date growth rate for all taxes remains low and points to an economy that is still anemic and recovering slowly,” Martin said. “For the remainder of this year, we will continue to closely monitor collections and expenditures.”
On an accrual basis, June is the eleventh month in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
The general fund was over collected by $8.9 million, and the four other funds were under collected by $5.7 million.
Sales tax collections were $0.1 million less than the estimate for June. The June growth rate was positive 1.18%. For eleven months revenues are under collected by $27.8 million. The year-to-date growth rate for eleven months was positive 1.67%.

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MTSU Professor Designated TN State Historian

News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointment of Dr. Carroll Van West as state historian.
West replaces the late Walter T. Durham, who served 11 years in the honorary position. (Note: Post on Durham’s death HERE.)
“Dr. West’s faithful service to his field for many years reflects a commitment to excellence that will serve the citizens of Tennessee very well,” Haslam said. “His incredible body of work speaks for itself, and we are fortunate and grateful to have him as our state historian.”
West has served as director at the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area since 2002.
He has taught as a professor in the MTSU history department since 1985. He currently serves as a co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and as a Tennessee representative on the National Board of Advisors of National Trust for Historic Preservation. West also sits on the Executive Board of Lewis and Clark Trust, Inc. and on the Advisory Board of Teaching with Primary Sources, Library of Congress.

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Documentary on TN Capitol Premiers

News release from Secretary of State’s office:
It has endured an army occupation, the interment of two of its founding fathers, and a car cruising through its hallways. Not to mention its role as the site of many of the most important events in Tennessee’s history. The Tennessee State Capitol building has many great stories to tell – and some of those stories were revealed in a documentary about the building that premiered last week. In attendance were state legislators, department commissioners, representatives from preservation groups and others.
The documentary was created by the staff of the Tennessee State Library and Archives. It is the first part of a project that will eventually include a virtual tour of the Capitol building and its grounds, and feature stories about the building and influential people in Tennessee history.
When completed, the entire project will be burned onto DVDs that will be distributed to schools throughout the state.
The project is a result of the Tennessee General Assembly’s approval of Public Chapter No. 557, sponsored by Representative Jim Coley and Senator Ken Yager.
“I appreciate the support of the Tennessee General Assembly in the passage of Public Chapter No. 557, which has led us to the creation of a comprehensive digital record of the Tennessee State Capitol’s history,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “That history will be available to people now and in the future – 24 hours a day, seven days a week and free of charge – over the Internet. There are many things about the Capitol’s history that will surprise people. This building doesn’t have its own Trivial Pursuit game, but it could.”
“The mission of the State Library and Archives is to preserve Tennessee’s history for everyone,” State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill said. “This video draws on some of the vast treasures contained in our archives to tell the story of the Capitol building.”
The original cornerstone of the Capitol building was laid on July 4, 1845. In the 14 years that followed, architect William Strickland – with assistance from Samuel Morgan, Francis Strickland and Harvey Ackroyd – designed and oversaw the building that is still in use today. Although the Capitol has gone through various renovations over nearly 170 years, many of the building’s original characteristics are unchanged. This historical national landmark is one of the nation’s oldest working statehouses still in use.
The documentary and information on the images used in the film are available at www.capitol.tnsos.net. Additionally, the virtual tour, mini-features, and fun stories about the Tennessee State Capitol will be available soon.