- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Small plane crashes outside YMCA in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A small plane crashed near a YMCA in suburban Nashville on Monday night, killing everyone on board and damaging cars in the Y’s parking lot, authorities said.

Authorities believe four members of the same family were on board the flight, which crashed near the Y in Bellevue, Nashville police said in a statement. They have not yet released the identities of the victims. The flight plan listed four people on board, the Federal Aviation Administration said. No one on the ground was injured, Nashville fire department spokeswoman Kim Lawson said.

The plane was a Gulfstream 690C that departed from Great Bend Municipal Airport in Great Bend, Kan., at 2:45 p.m. and crashed 10 miles south of John C. Tune Airport in Nashville about 5 p.m. The flight was bound for John C. Tune Airport but missed its first approach and was preparing for a second one when the aircraft crashed, Nashville Police said.

Police said the plane hit trees on the right side of the YMCA before crashing into the ground. The wreckage and debris is said to have spread over an area of more than 80 yards.

Morgan MacGavin was studying in a Starbucks when the plane crashed, narrowly avoiding the Y’s indoor swimming pool. She said people in the Starbucks ran outside to see a roaring fire and thick plumes of smoke.

“It looked like someone had poured gasoline on a bonfire,” MacGavin said. “It was probably the largest fire I have ever seen in my life.”


Haslam wants free tuition for high school seniors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has vowed to make education a priority in Tennessee and he backed that up with a pledge Monday to allow any graduating high school senior to attend a two-year higher learning institution for free.

Haslam made the announcement during his State of the State address, which included details of his $32.6 billion state spending proposal and a rundown of some of his top legislative priorities for the year.

The new education plan, called “Tennessee Promise,” is an addition to his so-called “Drive to 55” initiative, whose goal is to improve Tennessee’s graduate rates from colleges and universities from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025.

Under the new proposal, graduating high school seniors will be able to attend two years of community college or a college of applied technology free of tuition and fees.

After graduation, students who choose to attend a four-year school will be able to do so as a junior. Haslam plans to fund the program - expected to cost about $34 million annually - through an endowment made up of lottery reserve funds. The state has about $400 million in reserves.

“Through the Tennessee Promise, we are fighting the rising cost of higher education, and we are raising our expectations as a state,” he said. “We are committed to making a clear statement to families that education beyond high school is a priority in the state of Tennessee.”


10 things to know about Haslam’s $32.6B budget

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Here’s 10 items you should know about Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s $32.6 billion spending proposal for the budget year beginning in July:

DRIVE TO 55: The governor is proposing to waive tuition to two-year colleges in the state as part of his “Drive to 55” campaign to increase higher education graduation rates from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by 2025. The program would be paid for through an endowment created with lottery reserve money. He has also earmarked $15 million in new spending toward the effort.

K-12 EDUCATION: The state would spend $47 million to pay for growth and inflation in the statewide school funding formula. Another $63 million would go toward a 2 percent pay increase for teachers, the first step in the governor’s goal of increasing those salaries in Tennessee more than in any other state by the time he finishes his second term. Haslam is up for re-election this fall.

COLLEGE TUITION: The budget proposal does not include the $40 million in operational expenses for colleges and universities that the Board of Regents schools had called for in order to keep tuition increases between 2 percent and 4 percent. The schools raised tuition by up to 6 percent for the current academic year, and have resorted to double-digit increases in previous years.

PAY RAISES: Teachers would receive a 2 percent pay raise, while state employees would state employees would get 1 percent. But the Haslam administration says after these, it will move away from across-the-board increases in favor of performance-based raises.

LAYOFFS: The spending plan calls for eliminating 664 positions in state government, including 100 that are currently filled. The reductions would bring the total number of state employees to 43,227 - about 3,000 fewer than when Haslam came in to office. The administration says it expects that trend to continue amid improvements in efficiency and technology.


Volkswagen’s US workers will vote on union

DETROIT (AP) - Workers at Volkswagen’s only U.S. factory will decide next week whether to be represented by the United Auto Workers union.

German automaker Volkswagen AG said Monday that it has asked the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a vote at its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant Feb. 12 through 14. The plant, which makes the Passat sedan, has around 3,000 workers.

“Employees have the right to decide, by voting in a secret ballot election, on a matter that concerns their own interests,” said Sebastian Patta, the plant’s vice president of human resources, in a company statement. “Volkswagen respects this democratic right at all locations worldwide.”

German law gives labor representatives half the seats on the Volkswagen’s supervisory board, where some members have raised concerns about the Chattanooga plant being alone among the company’s large factories without formal labor representation.

The vote is a partial victory for the UAW, which said in September that a majority of workers at the plant had signed cards supporting union representation. The union has had little success so far in organizing foreign-owned U.S. plants, particularly in the South. Currently, the UAW represents just one foreign-owned U.S. factory, a Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill., with around 1,000 workers.

But while the UAW had hoped to represent the workers based on the signatures it collected, opponents - including Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, both Republicans - had called for a secret ballot.

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