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VOL. 132 | NO. 13 | Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: Haslam To Talk Gas Tax, Rallings Talks Protesters and Beale Street

By Bill Dries

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam talks gas tax Wednesday in Nashville. Actually, he will be rolling out his full list of legislative priorities in the capitol. But much of the attention will be on what he proposes in the way of the state’s gas tax – something he’s talked about but not committed a specific position to for the last two years.

In the run-up to the 11:15 a.m. announcement there are several possibilities including a straight up gas tax hike and the idea of merging this with earlier plans by some legislators including Brian Kelsey and Mark Norris from Shelby County to take a half-cent off the state sales tax rate.

We told you last week about the new chief clerk of the state House who is the first woman to hold the position. There were even laws against this happening in our state at one point. Sam Stockard, our Nashville correspondent, reports Kim Cox of Memphis will be the assistant chief clerk in the state House. And there is a pretty interesting mention of the last time the state gas tax was raised included in the telling of this story.

The tale of the junk food ban bill spans Tennessee and Arkansas. This is about a proposal to ban food stamp recipients from buying “junk food.”

The proposal in the Tennessee Legislature died an early death. In the Arkansas Legislature, the bill is moving.

Haslam will be attending Friday’s inauguration in Washington despite some pretty profound differences with Donald Trump during the Republican primary campaign in which he backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. In the general election campaign, Haslam went silent for the most part except to say at one point he couldn’t imagine why Trump would want to meet with him.

The inauguration was very much on the minds of a group that gathered last week at the National Civil Rights Museum to talk about how to plan for the future – several futures in fact. And one of the facilitators was someone who worked with Alvin Toffler, the author of “Future Shock” in the 1970s. The concept explored last week is something Toffler goes into at the end of the book – “anticipatory democracy.”

That was one discussion of several important ones at the National Civil Rights Museum going into the King holiday weekend. The other one was the forum on race and sports sponsored by the museum, the NBA and the Grizz. Here too, much discussion about what a Trump presidency will mean and also a lot of discussion about what the new president won’t affect.

A national television show will announce later this week it is filming in Memphis, according to Linn Sitler of the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission. Sitler also told the council Tuesday that 2016 was a record year for the industry in Shelby County with those making films, movies and television shows spending $8.5 million locally. The biggest part of that was the spend by the TCM crew here for an extended stay during the summer making the limited-run series “Sun Records.” The extended stay has prompted lots of speculation that the limited run series will run longer than expected once it debuts next month.

The $8.5 million also comes from many smaller scale productions and the total even tops the early 1990s, which was a peak for big movies made here including the series of movies based on John Grisham novels. “The Firm” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt” were the two biggest budget films of that era and bigger in terms of their budgets than “Sun Records.” But Sitler told the council “Sun Records” still spent more locally.

Discussions and updates like that were pretty much how the council day went Tuesday. As expected no vote on the Turner Dairy expansion in Overton Square. That’s put off until March.

Here’s a pretty comprehensive rundown of the new details in committee about the St. Jude expansion that are about looking east of the hospital as well as west and likely more money coming from Nashville, which is a bit further to the east.

And while we’ve been reporting on it for quite a while, not a whole lot of people at City Hall have been paying attention to the turmoil on Beale Street, specifically the work of the Beale Street Tourism Development Authority. Well, that changed in a big way Tuesday as the council got a briefing and several members didn’t like what they heard. Some are even talking about disbanding the authority that the previous council created.

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings causing quite a stir with comments outside the committee room about the Valero protests Monday in which a dozen people were arrested on misdemeanor charges. Rallings said the protesters “defamed” the King holiday.

Also in Digest, TraVure has closed on its financing for the Germantown development, the Brooks opens up the replacement for The Brushmark Wednesday as it inflates several giant bunnies outside the museum and probably on the Greensward. And Methodist University Hospital pulls an $80-million building permit.

ZipCar expands in Memphis with a presence at Christian Brothers University and a Ford Focus named “Humility.”

A company you may have seen a few years ago on Shark Tank wants to come to town this summer for the FedEx St. Jude Classic golf tournament. “Rent Like A Champion” doesn’t have a deal here, but wants to partner with the golf tournament to coordinate the temporary housing needs of the players and others who come to the city for the tournament. The company has already made some inroads with sports tournaments elsewhere.

A couple of healthcare notes:

The University of Memphis adding a social work masters program at its Lambuth campus in Jackson, which is prompted by a critical shortage of those with such credentials in the region.

And Saint Francis competes for nurses.

SCS Innovation Zone Schools in Ebony.

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