News briefs from around Tennessee at 1:58 a.m. EDT

Friday, April 25, 2014

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Tenn. official to VW: ‘Circumstances have changed’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Volkswagen was still moving forward with a draft memorandum of understanding on Tennessee state incentives to expand the automaker’s Chattanooga plant as recently as two weeks before a union election at the factory, according to emails obtained by WTVF-TV.

But the package was withdrawn. A Jan. 31 email from Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty told Volkswagen executives that “circumstances have changed” since the state made the $300 million incentive offer in August, and that the package was “no longer relevant.”

He did not specify which circumstances had changed. However, the letter came three days before Volkswagen announced it would hold a vote at the plant on whether workers there wanted to be represented by the United Auto Workers union. The UAW ultimately lost that vote 712-626.

There were revelations later, also reported by WTVF-TV, that the incentive package had been made contingent on the labor situation there concluding to the satisfaction of the state, where anti-UAW Republicans hold a vast majority.

That same day that Hagerty emailed company officials, his aide, Josh Helton, wrote an email to the Wolfsburg, Germany-based company’s attorney and property management consultant to tell them that the dollar figures were being deleted from the draft agreement.

“The markup we send back to you will have those numbers completely removed,” Helton said. “As we have communicated to Wolfsburg, our incentive offer dated August 23, 2013, is no longer applicable or relevant.”

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Haslam: Prayer to help guide execution decisions

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he will rely on prayer and advice from experts when he is faced with last-minute appeals from death row inmates facing execution.

The Republican governor stressed at a forum hosted by the Christian group Q Ideas on Wednesday that he has yet to be confronted with death penalty decisions because of court-ordered delays.

“So I can’t honestly answer when it comes down to 11 o’clock the night before exactly what that would feel like and look like,” Haslam said.

Haslam said he would gather a team of experts in mental health and law enforcement and prosecutors to help him sort through the intricacies of each case.

“I feel like my responsibility is to literally dive into each individual situation, talk to as many smart people about that situation as I can, pray about it and make a decision at that point in time,” he said. “Again, that literally hasn’t happened yet, but there are quite a few coming.”

At the start of the year, 10 of the state’s 76 inmates on death row had scheduled execution dates. One of them, Nickolus Johnson, had been scheduled to die April 22, but was granted a stay last month.

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