Tag Archives: system

State Throws in $40 Million Towel on Vehicle Tracking Computer System

State officials have quietly pulled the plug on an effort to replace a complex by Solid Savings” computer system used to track vehicles in Tennessee, after spending more than a decade and at least $40 million on development, reports Chas Sisk.
The Department of Revenue confirmed this month that it has ended an ambitious project called the Title and Registration User’s System of Tennessee, or TRUST, after determining that it would never reach its goal of replacing the state’s aging mainframe-based system.
The project, which would have created a new network linking the offices of all 95 county clerks in Tennessee, is one of several information technology overhauls launched by the state in recent years, only to run aground.
Although largely hidden from public view, IT travails have been a common thread running through recent failures at state agencies, including problems at the Department of Human Services, the Department of Children’s Services and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
State officials caution against oversimplifying the situation. They note that many large IT projects undertaken by private corporations fail as well.
But Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has responded by overhauling the state’s approach to IT. Last month, 1,600 IT workers were asked to reapply for their jobs, and the state has dedicated $4 million to retraining this year alone.
Mark Bengel, the state’s chief information officer, said that many state workers in the fast-changing IT sector have let their skills fall behind — to the point where they no longer have the expertise needed to bid out projects or to supervise them once they were awarded.
“IT is changing so fast and becoming so complex,” Bengel said in an interview last week. “Staffing hasn’t kept up.”
The TRUST project did achieve some of its goals. Car owners in most counties can renew their registrations online, and a complicated system that forced county clerks to memorize dozens of codes has been replaced with easier-to-use menus.
But the project hasn’t accomplished its main goal: replacing the state’s 25-year-old mainframe with a modern system of interconnected computers. Revenue Commissioner Richard Roberts instead decided to try to keep the mainframe working for a few more years, and then start a new project once the IT sector evolves further.
…The TRUST project spans three administrations, starting at the end of Republican Gov. Don Sundquist’s, running throughout Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s and ending more than a year into Haslam’s. The project has passed between two sets of government agencies and has gone through a major restart.

Lawmakers Approve Changes to State Retirement System

The House has approved and sent to the governor for his signature a bill that changes the pension system for state employees and teachers hired after July 1, 2014.
Drafted by state Treasurer David Lillard, SB1005 would create what is described as a “hybrid” between the present defined-benefits plan, which guarantees retirees a fixed pension based on years of service and earnings, and a defined-contribution plan, which has no guaranteed benefit level.
The bill passed the Senate 32-0 and won 71-16 approval in the House. All no votes came from Democrats.
Explaining his no vote, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh praised the proposal as well designed, but said it is simply not needed in Tennessee because the state retirement system has adequate funding — unlike those in many other states.
But Lillard and sponsors of the bill — Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, and Steve McManus, R-Cordova — said long-range projections show the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System could face problems and the legislation will head them off, without affecting current state workers and teachers.

Andrea Zelinski has details on the legislation:

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Lillard Outlines Plans to Change State Pension System

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s treasurer said Monday that he wants to overhaul the state’s public retirement system to cut costs and ensure it can pay out benefits for years to come.
David Lillard said he will propose legislation laying out the overhaul, even though Tennessee’s public pension system is faring better than those in most other states. Changes to the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System will only apply to state employees, higher education officials and teachers hired after July 1, 2014, Lillard said at a news conference. The retirement benefits of those currently in the system won’t be affected.
The state is doing better than its peers with similar plans, but earnings of the Tennessee plan have fallen short of expectations over the past several years, he said. The changes are needed because it’s uncertain how much money the retirement system’s investments will yield in the future, Lillard said.
He said that in 2003, taxpayers spent about $264 million a year to support the system. As of last year, that number had grown to $731 million, he said.
“Based on projections we have seen, the cost could go up by one-third or more over the next 10 years if changes aren’t made, which would push the taxpayers’ total annual expense above $1 billion,” said Lillard, adding that at least 45 states have enacted some type of pension reform in the past few years.

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Treasurer Pushes Change in State Retirement System

Tennessee may be contributing much less to state employee retirement accounts in the future based on a state plan to convert to a defined contribution plan, reports the Commercial Appeal.
State Treasurer David Lillard will unveil details of his proposed revisions to the state pension plan Monday, and the state legislature will consider the changes with bills sponsored by Rep. Steve McManus, R-Memphis, and Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge.
Lillard’s proposal will change — for future hires only — the pension plan from a defined-benefits plan to a hybrid plan that includes elements of defined-benefits and defined-contribution programs.
Defined-benefits plans guarantee retirees a fixed pension benefit based on their years of service and earnings, while defined-contribution plans do not have guaranteed payment levels but rather specified contribution levels by the employer. The benefit payments may rise and fall with their underlying investments.
The state’s pension plan is part of the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, established in 1972 and which today covers state government workers, employees of the state’s public higher education system, local public school teachers statewide and employees of about 485 towns, cities, counties, utility districts and other local entities that choose to participate in the state-run plan. All nonstate entities pay their own costs.

Violence Up in Juvenile Detention System Following Taft Closing

The Department of Children’s Services has seen a sharp spike in violence involving children and youths housed in its juvenile detention system in just the past three months, according to data obtained by The Tennessean.
Over July, August and September, there were 102 youth-on-youth or youth-on-staff assaults that involved teachers, staff and guards at Woodland Hills Youth Development Center in Nashville, a facility that holds 125 boys and young men ages 13 to 19.
At the Mountain View Youth Development Center in Jefferson County, where 105 boys and young men live, there were 67 reported assaults in the same three-month period.
And at Wilder Youth Development Center in Fayette County, which houses 139 boys and young men, the assault total for three months reached 90.
The rash of assaults reported at DCS facilities follows a controversial decision by agency Commissioner Kate O’Day to shut down two of the state’s detention centers on July 1 as a cost-saving measure. Those two facilities — the Taft Youth Development Center for boys in Bledsoe County and the New Visions center for girls in Nashville — had been where DCS sent some of its most violent and troubled youths.
Those youths have now been transferred to four of DCS’ remaining facilities.

Chamber of Commerce Lowers TN Rating as ‘Business Friendly’ in Lawsuits

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform has rated Tennessee as the 26th best state information in ‘legal climate for business.’
That’s down from 19th in 2010, the year before Gov. Bill Haslam’s tort reform law was enacted. That law has multiple provisions, including new limits on damages that can be awarded to plaintiffs bringing lawsuits against businesses, and was promoted by the governor as making Tennessee more business-friendly.
The Chamber group rates Delaware as the best state for businesses in dealing with the civil justice system,, West Virginia the worst.
The group’s national news release, which focuses on what the Chamber considers the “worst” states, is HERE. The state-by-state ratings map is HERE.
The Tennessee “detailed” page is HERE.

Troopers Getting New Radios

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state has announced an agreement with Motorola Solutions Inc. for a statewide radio system for state troopers.
Under $39.2 million appropriated by the General Assembly, radios will be upgraded in the Tennessee Highway Patrol Chattanooga, Fall Branch and Knoxville districts. It’s the first phase of the project replacing a system more than 30 years old.
Officials said it would help troopers communicate with authorities in Kentucky, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
THP Col. Tracy Trott said the lack of a reliable communication system has been an issue for troopers for decades.
Officials said the new system also will help communications between troopers and similar Motorola radio