- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014
Haslam: No threat implied in VW incentive offer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that making a $300 million incentive package for Volkswagen subject to labor talks concluding to the state’s satisfaction was not a threat but a “statement of reality” about the political landscape in Tennessee.

Haslam stressed to reporters that any grants and tax credits offered to encourage the German automaker to build a new SUV in Chattanooga rather than in Mexico would have to be approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature, where its fate would be uncertain if the United Auto Workers union began representing workers.

The state “wanted something that could be approved in the Legislature and was good for the state,” Haslam said. “That’s not unreasonable.”

Workers at the Chattanooga plant in February narrowly rejected UAW representation, though the union is challenging that outcome with the National Labor Relations Board on allegations that politicians and “outside special interest groups” swayed the election.

The state said in its August 2013 incentive offer, which was first reported by WTVF-TV, that the offer was contingent on labor talks “being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee.”

About three weeks after the incentive offer, Haslam was asked directly by reporters whether the state had linked the package for the Volkswagen plant to the automaker’s rejection of the UAW. Haslam’s answer: “We did not.”

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Haslam regrets no raises for teachers next year

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that he regrets not being able to give the state’s teachers a raise and pledged to find ways to increase their pay after vowing to do so last year.

Earlier this week, the Republican governor said he won’t be able to give teachers and state employees a pay increase next year mainly because of an ongoing decline in revenue collections.

Haslam said poor revenue collections are forcing him to make $150 million in reductions for the remainder of this budget year that ends June 30 and $160 million for next year. Sales tax collections have fallen short by $33 million, and business tax collections are down $215 million.

“I think it’s really important that they understand that this is the last thing we want to do,” Haslam told reporters Wednesday. “We’re dealing with a very difficult budget reality.”

Last year, Haslam pledged to improve the salaries of the state’s teachers. The governor said Wednesday that he’s still committed to raising teacher salaries.

“Is this something we’re going to try to improve every time we have a chance to address the budget? You bet,” he said.

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Police: Suspect in Bobo death threatened brother

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A man charged with kidnapping and killing nursing student Holly Bobo is now accused of threatening his own brother if the brother didn’t keep quiet.

WTVF-TV (http://bit.ly/1j16qbehttp://bit.ly/1j16qbe ) reported this week that a police affidavit says murder suspect Zachary Adams told a jail inmate to relay a message to his brother to keep quiet.

Adams said “tell my brother he is the one who started this … and if he doesn’t shut his mouth he will be in the hole beside her,” an affidavit filed by a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent with the Decatur County General Sessions Court said. Calls to the Decatur County General Sessions Court Clerk’s office went unanswered Wednesday. WTVF was able to obtain the affidavit and provide a copy to the Associated Press.

Adams is currently jailed on charges of aggravated kidnapping and felony murder in connection with Bobo’s disappearance. On Tuesday, the TBI announced that Adams had been charged with one count of coercion of a witness, but the agency offered few other details.

Adams’ attorney did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Adams has pleaded not guilty to charges of felony murder and especially aggravated kidnapping in connection with Bobo’s disappearance.

The 20-year-old disappeared in April 2011 outside her home near Parsons, Tenn. Her body was never found. Bobo’s brother told police that the last time he saw her she was being led into the woods by a man dressed in camouflage.

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Tenn. twins’ autopsies show no signs of foul play

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - Autopsies have helped identify 63-year-old twin brothers who were found dead last weekend in their Chattanooga home. But the medical examiner still hasn’t been able to resolve the mystery of what happened to the brothers and how their bodies could have remained in the home for about three years without anyone noticing.

Police found the skeletal remains of Andrew and Anthony Johnson sitting in their recliners in a living room in their home Saturday. The conditions of the bodies suggested that both men had been dead since 2011.

After the autopsies, investigators still believe the brothers have been dead for about three years. There were no signs of trauma or anything to indicate the two were victims of homicide, but investigators are waiting for the results of toxicology tests to come back, Chattanooga Police Sgt. Wayne Jefferson said.

“Right now there is nothing to indicate that they died of anything outside of natural causes,” Jefferson said. He cautioned that results of blood tests that come in later could tell a different story.

The neighbors, according to police, had no idea anything was wrong because there was no odor coming out of the house and the brothers lived like hermits and had little contact with family or anyone else. Jefferson said he believed that somebody continued to mow the brothers’ lawn all those years.

Police had actually gone to the Acorn Street home back in 2011 after family members became concerned because they hadn’t seen the brothers. The house, according to police, appeared to be vacant, and a note inside the mailbox indicated that mail delivery had stopped because the postal service thought the Johnson brothers had moved.

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