June 29 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office. 

Haslam Makes Statement on High Court’s Health Care Ruling (TN Report)

Gov. Bill Haslam says he is still at odds with federal health care reforms despite the high court’s decision to uphold the law. But he’s surprised the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot be forced into expanding their Medicaid programs within the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” Haslam offered his thoughts on the ruling — which took up the individual mandate requirement in the so-called “Obamacare” health care law — in a YouTube video released a few hours after the ruling was made public.

Health care ruling frees state on TennCare spending mandate (TFP/Sher)

Gov. Bill Haslam said he is weighing Tennessee’s options after the U.S. Supreme Court did away Thursday with a directive in the federal health law requiring states to participate in a massive expansion of their Medicaid coverage. Justices upheld the constitutionality of most provisions in the federal Affordable Health Care Act, including the controversial individual mandate. But they undid the law’s mandate that states like Tennessee and Georgia join in a broadening of the state and federally funded Medicaid program for the poor.

Decision Day: Pols react (Nashville Post)

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most parts of the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, a good number of Tennessee’s elected officials are commenting aplenty. Here’s a rundown. • 1:24 p.m. — U.S. Senator Bob Corker maintained the brevity the other Washington politicians have offered thus far: “Today’s ruling makes it clear that it’s up to Congress to replace the president’s health care law with common sense reforms that our nation and its citizens can afford.”

Tennessee lawmakers react to Supreme Court ruling (Memphis Daily News)

Tennessee reaction to the Supreme Court of the United States’ divided decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was varied and divisive, and clearly fell along party lines. On the ‘right’ side: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., released a statement that called the decision “an historic mistake.” “Congress should repeal the law and then proceed step by step to reduce the cost of health care so more Americans can afford to buy insurance,” Alexander said.

TN officials remain cautious on health-care ruling (Tennessean/Sisk)

Tennessee leaders struggled to understand the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold much of the Affordable Care Act while appearing to strike down one of the provisions that had most troubled the states. Ruling 5-4 on a side issue to the big question about the constitutionality of the health insurance mandate, the Supreme Court said Congress could expand eligibility for Medicaid, known as TennCare in Tennessee, and change the range of services offered. But the court said the federal government is limited in how much of the bill it could force states to foot.

Health law upheld, Tennessee lawmakers respond (Nooga)

Lawmakers across the state wasted no time responding to Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling to uphold the individual insurance requirement of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, the Affordable Care Act. In a 5-4 ruling, the court decided it was not unconstitutional for citizens who choose to disregard acquiring mandated health insurance to be taxed. The decision led the majority of Tennessee’s Republican legislators—many of whom voted in favor of repealing the law last year—to voice their complete disapproval of the decision and call for another attempt at repealing the law.

Rutherford Republican legislators denounce support of Obamacare (DNJ)

Rutherford County’s legislative leaders are livid over a Supreme Court ruling upholding most of the federal Affordable Care Act, contending it will cost Tennessee hundreds of millions annually and give the federal government unprecedented control over people’s lives. The reaction was swift after the high court issued a 5-4 ruling backing most provisions of the 2010 law President Barack Obama championed, most of which will take effect in 18 months. Gov. Bill Haslam used the Thursday decision to vault into the political realm.

Ramsey says state has time to create health care exchange (Times-News)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the federal health care reform law doesn’t accelerate the need for a Tennessee special legislative session to consider establishing a state health care exchange, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said Thursday. Ramsey, R-Blountville, said outside the annual Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce legislative barbecue event that lawmakers still have time during next January’s session to act on the health care exchange provision in the reform law known as the Affordable Care Act.

Decision Day: Upheld! (Nashville Post)

Well, it’s finally happened. Every commentator and politico who has been preparing multiple speeches over the last weeks, ready to respond to any eventuality can now make their choice. In a somewhat surprising decision this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of upholding the Affordable Care Act. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined in with the court’s left-leaning members in upholding the law. The Court upheld the controversial individual mandate stating “Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax.

Supreme Court upholds Obamacare; individual mandate stands (M. Biz Journal)

In a highly anticipated 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States has upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the opinion, which upheld the controversial individual mandate as a tax. This means the mandate survived constitutional scrutiny under the U.S. Constitution through the taxing clause — despite the mandate’s apparent failure to survive under the Commerce Clause. Roberts was joined by Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Court Upholds Health Care Reform (Memphis Daily News)

The Supreme Court has upheld the individual insurance mandate that’s the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul. Chief Justice John Roberts Thursday, June 28, announced the court’s judgment, which will allow the law to move forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million currently uninsured Americans. Shelby County is home to roughly 145,000 uninsured individuals, or about 15 percent of the population, according to Dr. Cyril Chang, director of the Methodist Le Bonheur Center for Healthcare Economics at the University of Memphis Fogelman College of Business & Economics.

Health law ruling resonates in Tennessee (Tennessean/Wilemon, Ward)

Jennifer Sheridan, the mother of a son with autism, spent a sleepless night chatting online with parents of other disabled children worried about what the Supreme Court would do when it ruled on health reform. Courtney Jenkins-Atnip, who has Crohn’s disease, wept Thursday morning when the CNN network incorrectly reported the justices had struck down key elements of the Affordable Care Act. Then the unexpected happened. Chief Justice John Roberts — viewed as a conservative on the court — wrote in the majority opinion that Congress was within its constitutional rights to pass the health-care overhaul because of its authority to levy taxes.

Chattanooga locals cheer, jeer ruling to allow law (Times Free-Press/Martin)

Local residents responded to a much-anticipated and momentous Supreme Court ruling with outrage and welcome as they, like much of the nation, tried to decipher what the decision means for them. “It’s tyranny,” said 72-year-old June Griffin. “It’s a fine on liberty. This is wrong and bottom line is I’m not doing it.” Griffin, who lives in Dayton, said she does not use Social Security or Medicare and will refuse to buy health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, those who do not buy insurance will have to pay a penalty on their federal income tax.

TN plots the next step after Supreme Court upholds health care reform (CA/Sells)

Supreme Court’s health care decision draws range of views Memphis reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, as expected, ranged widely Thursday. Health care providers, including hospitals, generally applauded; medical device manufacturers and insurance firms, which face higher costs, didn’t. Employer groups were sharply critical and called on Congress to repeal the law. Supporters of access called for even bigger reforms.

TN GOP lawmakers promise the fight isn’t over (Tennessean/Bewley)

Angry GOP lawmakers from Tennessee promised Thursday that the fight isn’t over, after the Supreme Court upheld the 2010 health-care reform law. “Today’s ruling makes it clear that it’s up to Congress to replace the president’s health-care law with common-sense reforms that our nation and its citizens can afford,” Republican Sen. Bob Corker said. Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, said she had expected the court to declare the individual mandate unconstitutional. Its decision, she said, is a “gross (mis)interpretation of Congress’ taxing responsibility under the Constitution.”

GOP condemns court’s opinion (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Carroll)

Tennessee legislators and party officials across the political spectrum unleashed polarized, predictable reactions after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled favorably on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Now the president’s friends and enemies in the Tennessee Valley and elsewhere will look ahead to the November election and its ramifications for Obama’s central legislative achievement. In solidly Republican Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia, most of the news releases flowing into local reporters’ inboxes roared with anger over the individual mandate requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

Roe: Obamacare ruling will define fall election (Times-News)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding most of the federal health care reform law “will clearly define” the presidential election this fall, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said Thursday. After the ruling, GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney reiterated his pledge to repeal the law if elected, while President Barack Obama promised to continue to fight for the law’s major provisions going into effect in 2014. “The president refuses to go back to the way things were,” Nancy-Ann DeParle, assistant to the president and White House deputy chief of staff, said in a statement posted on www.whitehouse.gov.

A mixed diagnosis for doctors in the health care overhaul (Times Free-Press/Martin)

Implementation of a federal health care law means a mixed bag of concerns for local doctors, including possible cuts to Medicare payments, increased patient demand and better coverage for their patients. “Ultimately, our doctors are concerned about maintaining doctor/patient relations and maintaining access to quality care,” said Rae Bond, head of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society and the Medical Foundation of Chattanooga. Ensuring that people have access to health care insurance doesn’t mean those people will have access to health care, Bond said.

THA Pleased with Ruling, But Concern Over Indigent Care Remains (WPLN)

The head of a group representing Tennessee hospitals says he’s happy with today’s Supreme Court ruling on the federal healthcare law. He says if more people have insurance, it could mean more revenue. At the same time, medical centers will be dealing with a big cut in federal money. Hospitals in Tennessee get about 40 million dollars a year from the federal government, to help make up for the amount they have to write off for treating the uninsured.

‘What you’re going to see is the launch of more health insurance exchanges’ (NP)

On the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Change Healthcare President Doug Ghertner took some time to talk to Nashville Post Managing Editor William Williams. Nashville-based Change Healthcare provides consumers personalized cost and savings information regarding the purchase of health care products. Your thoughts about the ruling in general? It certainly accelerates the move toward greater consumer involvement in health care purchasing decisions.

Obamacare affirmed: ‘It’s time for employers to get to work’ (M. Biz Journal)

While the smoke continues to clear from this morning’s divided high court ruling in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, small business owners may be scratching their heads about what the law truly means for them. One thing is certain: employers have much work ahead of them to ensure they’ll be compliant, and according to Sheldon Blumling, an attorney with labor and employment law firm Fisher & Phillips, “employers will be extremely busy getting their health care houses in order” before the business mandates take effect in 2014.

Law helps TN seniors with medications, home visits (Tennessean/Ward)

For thousands of seniors statewide on Medicare, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most of the reform law means continued help with their prescription drug costs. “It means that the ‘doughnut hole’ coverage will continue, and that’s a good thing,” said Beverly Patnaik, academic director for the School for TransformAging at Lipscomb University. She was referring to the gap in drug coverage where beneficiaries were required to pay 100 percent of their prescription costs from when they reach $2,930 in total drug spending until they hit the $4,700 maximum out-of-pocket limit for the year.

Small biz must mull costs, choices following health care ruling (N. Biz Journal)

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision started the clock on a chain of decisions for many employers — particularly smaller ones — in Middle Tennessee. While there’s plenty of rhetoric flying over the decision to uphold most aspects of President Barack Obama’s health care law, experts, advocates and business owners say this much is true regardless: Many companies have choices to make in earnest now. Penny Wofford, a labor and benefits attorney representing employers with Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart, said today’s decision means, above all, businesses must prepare.

Reaction to Supreme Court ruling (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Harrington)

Decision provides clarity While the Supreme Court ruling upholding most provisions of the Affordable Care Act did little to quell the political debate over merits of the health reform law passed in 2010, it has provided a clear direction going forward for various stakeholders. “The last two years have been a time of tremendous uncertainty. This takes the legal out of the discussion. We now know what we’re dealing with,” said Carole Myers, University of Tennessee assistant professor and co-director of the Center for Health Policy and Services Research.

Murfreesboro hospital, clinics awaiting next steps after court’s ruling (DNJ)

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling left those in the medical community with a watchful eye on what will happen next. The high court upheld virtually all of President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul, including the core requirement that nearly every American should have health insurance. The 5-4 decision meant the legislation could proceed and pick up momentum over the next several years, affecting the way that countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care.

Locals mull impact of Supreme Court ruling (Leaf Chronicle)

Medical groups prepare for possible increase in patients Local medical professionals were still wading through the Supreme Court’s healthcare decision Thursday morning. “Right now, we’re just trying to get our feet on the ground to fully understand the Supreme Court’s decision,” said Lloyd Matson, the chief administrator at Premier Medical Group. Matson said that, throughout the process, there has been concern about the added strain a health insurance mandate might put on medical practices.

7 pieces of Nashville’s health care industry impacted by today’s ruling (NBJ)

Professor James Blumstein, director of Vanderbilt’s Health Policy Center, has some personal expertise related to today’s Supreme Court decision: Blumstein is the only person in Tennessee to write and file his own amicus brief with the high court. We caught up with Blumstein to get the 411 on what the decision means for the health care business in Nashville. Hospitals: Blumstein said hospitals stand to gain in the near term by turning uncompensated care into patient revenue.

What’s next in health care? (USA Today)

What’s next in health care? A look at the consumer, employer and provider’s role The waiting game is over for consumers, employers, health-care providers and insurers. Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling that upheld the 2010 health-care law means ongoing trends will continue, and those who waited on the sidelines for the court will now have to implement their parts of the law. For consumers, that means that those intimidated by what opponents called the overly complex part of the law will have to learn what will affect them, particularly if they have to buy their own insurance or pay a penalty for skipping it.

States Face a Challenge to Meet Health Law’s Deadline (New York Times)

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act shifts the focus from whether sweeping changes to the health insurance market should take place to a scramble to meet the law’s rapidly approaching deadlines. A number of largely Republican-led states that gambled on delay now face the unsettling prospect that the federal government could take over their responsibilities, particularly in setting up the health insurance marketplaces known as exchanges, where people will be able to choose among policies for their coverage.

Uncertainty Over States and Medicaid Expansion (New York Times)

The Supreme Court said on Thursday that a huge expansion of Medicaid envisioned in the 2010 health care law was an option, not a mandate, for states. Experts disagreed on whether states would take the option, one of the most important questions created by the court’s decision. Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and a former governor, said: “Many states, maybe most, will decide that they simply cannot afford to choose to expand Medicaid. If I were governor of Tennessee, I would not expand Medicaid as the program is currently run.”

On heels of decision, hospital stocks rise, insurance companies lose ground (MBJ)

Initial stock movement from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the health care reform act settled down near the closing bell Thursday, but in general, hospital stocks have risen and health insurance companies have lost ground The High Court upheld the constitutionality of the act many refer to as Obamacare, including the individual mandate that will require most Americans to have some kind of health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty, which essentially amounts to a tax.

So, you don’t provide health care. What’ll that cost you? (Nashville Biz Journal)

So, you say you’re running a company that doesn’t provide health insurance? And now you may have to, or else. Or else what? Federal health care reform, largely upheld today by the U.S. Supreme Court , sets up this basic framework: If your company is of a certain size, you’ve got to provide health insurance or pay a penalty. Which makes more sense for individual companies depends upon a lot of factors.

ECD website sheds some light on economic incentives (Tennessean/Cass)

A website debuting today will make it easier for the public to see some of the economic incentives the state has given to companies doing business here. But the move is only a first step toward full transparency regarding the jobs actually created by those firms at a time when economic pressures are making elected officials especially willing to use incentives and subsidies, according to an accountability group that advised state officials as they developed the site.

TDOT says exit 20 relief on the way (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Higgins)

Tennessee is getting ready to administer a dose of decongestant to a clogged Interstate 75 exit right after the Fourth of July holiday, state transportation officials said Thursday. Paul Degges, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, met with local officials and media Thursday, standing on asphalt under a broiling sun at exit 20. Noting that traffic often backs up on the single-lane ramp now, forcing some drivers to wait on the I-75 shoulder for their turn to get on the ramp, Degges said, “We have a real safety problem here.”

Clarksville woman charged with TennCare fraud (Leaf Chronicle)

A Clarksville woman has been charged with TennCare fraud. The Office of Inspector General, with the assistance of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, on Thursday announced the arrest of Katherine Marie Dixon, 31, of Clarksville. Dixon was indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury and charged with one count of TennCare fraud for obtaining by, fraudulent means, medical assistance benefits through TennCare for which she was not entitled, according to a state news release.

Lawyer sues Knox judges after failing to win court-appointed work (N-S/Satterfield)

A lawyer who describes himself as “East Indian” is suing Knox County General Sessions Court judges, alleging he was skipped over for indigent defense work because of his race. Arun Rattan has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the county’s five sessions court judges as well as Knox County over his inability to make the roster of private lawyers tapped to handle defense work for the poor when the Public Defender’s Office has a conflict.

Hamilton County commissioners OK budget, EMS transport hike (TFP/Haman)

Next year’s $642.3 million budget unanimously sailed through the Hamilton County Commission on Thursday morning. County workers will receive 3 percent across-the-board raises, and county residents will be paying the same property tax rate as last year. Only one question — from Hamilton County Commission District 3 candidate Mitzi Yates — stirred a substantive discussion about the 2013 fiscal year changes, which go into effect July 1.

Loudon County Commission OKs $63M budget (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Willett)

The Loudon County Commission passed a $63 million 2012-13 county budget Thursday night without having to raid the school building fund — but it did come at the expense of requests from county employees and the Sheriff’s Office. The commission voted to fill a $1 million gap in the general operating fund by transferring money from the capital projects fund and moving 1 cent of property tax into the general fund. Last week the commission budget committee reversed itself on a proposal that involved moving money from the school building fund to the general fund to cover an operating shortfall.

Knox County Commission might revisit sales tax increase (News-Sentinel/Donila)

The Knox County Commission appears willing to revisit a proposal that would let voters in November decide whether they want to raise the sales tax by half a cent. Commissioner Jeff Ownby, who is spearheading the talks, said he plans to meet early next week with officials to further discuss the option before possibly talking about it at length before the full board in July. If approved, Ownby said he’d like to use any excess money the tax raises to give deputies and corrections officers with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office a one-step pay increase.

Newspaper appeals mosque decision (Daily News Journal)

The Murfreesboro Post has appealed a ruling that its free paper was not sufficient for a public notice about a mosque. The business is the latest to challenge Chancellor Robert Corlew III’s decision that voided approval of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’s site plans for a mosque on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike. Post attorney David LaRoche takes issue with Corlew’s ruling that states, “We continue to have serious questions whether the Post qualifies as a newspaper of general circulation within Rutherford County.”

Federal judge in Chattanooga sets hearing on prayers (Associated Press)

A federal judge in Chattanooga has ordered a hearing on a motion to stop the Hamilton County Commission from beginning meetings with a prayer. U.S. District Court Judge Sandy Mattice on Wednesday set the hearing for July 26, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Plaintiffs Tommy Coleman and Brandon Jones have asked for a restraining order to prevent the prayers, which they contend violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Coleman and Jones filed suit earlier this month, seeking to halt the practice.

Judge orders hearing on prayers; meeting opens with invocation (TFP/Haman)

Two camps of residents — those asking Hamilton County commissioners to convert their invocation to a moment of silence and others imploring them to keep praying — filled the commission meeting room Thursday morning. The clash came the morning after U.S. District Court Judge Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice ordered a July 26 hearing to consider whether to grant a preliminary injunction to halt the prayers until he can rule on a lawsuit filed earlier this month by residents Tommy Coleman and Brandon Jones.

Congress poised to act on highways, student loans (Associated Press)

After being derided as a “do-nothing” Congress, the House and Senate were poised to vote on a massive legislative package that overhauls highway and transit programs, salvages an estimated 3 million jobs and spares millions of students from higher interest rates on college loans. Congressional leaders were pushing for quick action Friday on the package, which also would financially shore up the federal flood insurance program. Two deadlines are looming: Federal highway and transit aid programs and the government’s authority to levy federal fuel taxes expire on Saturday, and interest rates on new student loans are set to double on Sunday.

Michelle Obama urges church leaders to take community action (TN/Smietana)

Word of court ruling follows her call to serve The shouts of “Praise the Lord” and “Hallelujah” started just after Michelle Obama finished her speech to the general conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Nashville. Right after the first lady left the ballroom at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, Bishop T. Larry Kirkland announced to more than 10,000 church members that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld President Barack Obama’s health-care reform law.

First lady urges political action in Nashville speech (C. Appeal/Locker)

First lady Michelle Obama told delegates to the nation’s oldest and largest black denomination here Thursday that, like faith, “democracy is also an everyday activity” and urged them to register people to vote and stay engaged in politics. She said failing to vote and act fails the legacy of civil rights activists who won voting rights. Obama delivered the keynote address at the quadrennial general conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Hotel before heading to Memphis for a private fundraiser for her husband’s re-election campaign.

First Lady Obama Rallies Base At Opryland AME Convention (WPLN-Radio)

First Lady Michelle Obama visited Nashville Thursday for the second time in the last few months. While Mrs. Obama’s first visit was to raise money for her husband’s reelection, this time seemed to aim squarely at rallying base supporters. Mrs. Obama spoke before a jubilant crowd of several thousand, at a convention of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at Opryland. She pushed the audience to get others involved in politics, and chided anyone who passes up a chance to vote, saying “salvation is not a once-a-week kind of deal… and neither is citizenship.”

First Lady, Health Care Ruling Boost Dem. Faithful (Memphis Daily News)

First lady Michelle Obama arrived in Memphis Thursday, June 28, for a campaign rally just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court announced its ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act. “When it comes to healthcare, please, please tell people about the historic reform this president passed,” she told a crowd of 300 at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. “Tell them that today’s Supreme Court decision was truly a victory for families all across this country.

Transition Planning Commission rolls out plan for merging schools (CA/Kelley)

The Transition Planning Commission continued its rollout of the plan for merging Memphis and Shelby County school districts Thursday in a morning session with faith-based leaders, a midday presentation to Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, and an evening presentation to the general public at Agricenter International. At the midday meeting, with Huffman and 15 TPC members in attendance at the Memphis City Schools Teaching and Learning Academy, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell told Huffman that the TPC has done a good job crafting the 120-page, 172-recommendation document.

 

OPINION

 

Editorial: Sun shines on TCAP (Commercial Appeal)

Gov.Bill Haslam, state education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and all those who have been deeply involved in education reform across Tennessee were understandably happy with the news that students in grades 3-8 statewide achieved higher levels of proficiency in 23 of 24 TCAP tests this year over last. TCAP are the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests students take to measure their proficiency in the core subjects of math, science, reading, social studies and language arts. The tests are an important measure of how well students are learning and how well teachers are doing in the classrooms.

Editorial: Scoring success (Mountain Press)

Latest TCAP scores encouraging but can and should be much better It’s good to see the statewide assessment test scores for public school students continue to rise. It’s the second year in a row the scores have gone up, and any improvement is welcomed. Student performance on the 2012 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) reached higher levels of proficiency in 23 of 24 TCAP achievement tests in grades 3-8. Achievement also increased on most high school “End of Course” exams. “The continued success of students is a testament to how much work Tennessee teachers have done in the classroom,” Gov. Bill Haslam said.

Free-Press Editorial: ObamaCare unleashed (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Today is a day of disappointment and alarm for the United States of America. The U.S. Supreme Court erred badly and dangerously on Thursday in narrowly upholding ObamaCare, the federal attempt to seize effective control of medical care. A majority of the states — which are to be saddled with enormous costs related to ObamaCare — had sued. But the court has brushed off their objections in a 5-4 ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts surprisingly and unfortunately joined the court’s four most liberal members — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — in upholding ObamaCare.

Greg Johnson: Health care ruling contains a true gift (News-Sentinel)

Chief Justice John Roberts stunned conservatives yesterday by upholding the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Roberts joined the Supreme Court’s four perpetual liberals, including Justice Elena Kagan, who worked as solicitor general in the Obama administration when the ACA was passed. Roberts is forever ruined in the eyes of the right, but Gov. Bill Haslam may have gotten a gift. The truth of Obamacare has now come out: President Barack Obama and his Democratic colleagues, contrary to assertions by Obama, raised taxes by more than $45 billion dollars on individuals and $96 billion on employers.

Editorial: Health-care reform is making lives better (Tennessean)

No matter which way the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, public reaction was going to be mixed. Now, the law has been upheld, but Republican lawmakers at the federal and state levels seem determined to see it repealed. That’s a shame, because the act has the potential to save lives and improve quality of life, especially in Tennessee. When fully implemented, it’s estimated that about 500,000 of Tennessee’s 6 million people will have health coverage for the first time in their lives. In a state where about one-third of adults and nearly 20 percent of children are obese, coverage that has an emphasis on wellness and prevention, as the ACA does, could have a widespread beneficial impact.

Times Editorial: An epic health care victory (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision Thursday upholding almost all of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate to purchase health insurance at its core, is an epic victory not just for the Obama administration and its Democratic supporters. It is, more importantly, a long-sought and urgently needed victory for all Americans. It sets the course for secure, affordable, comprehensive and universal health care — a level of care that cannot be capriciously denied by a callous health-care industry that has long elevated outsized profits over provision of adequate care for all Americans.

Glen Casada: State will fight court-sanctioned power grab (Tennessean)

Faced with his own ship burning and sinking, legendary American Revolutionary naval officer John Paul Jones uttered these famous words after a British ship asked for his surrender: “I have not yet begun to fight.” These are the words that leapt to my mind following the release of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision affirming the constitutionality of “Obamacare.” With this unfortunate holding, the Supreme Court approved an unprecedented expansion of the federal government’s authority. Perhaps more devastating, the court has backed a huge government power grab in the face of polling that revealed a majority of Americans wanted the law overturned.

 

Clay Bennett Political Cartoon: “The Decision” (Times Free-Press)

 

Columnist: ObamaCare and the Power to Tax (Wall Street Journal)

Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissenting from the majority opinion that upheld most provisions of the Affordable Care Act on Thursday: The provision challenged under the Constitution is either a penalty or else a tax. Of course in many cases what was a regulatory mandate enforced by a penalty could have been imposed as a tax upon permissible action; or what was imposed as a tax upon permissible action could have been a regulatory mandate enforced by a penalty. But we know of no case, and the Government cites none, in which the imposition was, for constitutional purposes, both.

Pam Strickland: Hurley is an embarrassment to her constituents (News-Sentinel)

State Rep. Julia Hurley, R-Lenoir City, has been making the national news again this week. And as it was when she first filed for office in 2010, her attention-getting efforts haven’t been because she is a delightful lawmaker, doing good for the fine people she represents in Roane and Loudon counties. In 2010 Hurley made news because some of her best professional experience was her five years as a Hooter’s waitress, including appearing in an ad in Hooter’s magazine. In spite of, or maybe because of, that work experience, Hurley was among the historic number of Republicans elected to the Tennessee Legislature that year.

Editorial: Tennessee should stay off federal immigration turf (News-Sentinel)

In the first of two blockbuster rulings this week, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday firmly and correctly reminded the nation that immigration law enforcement is the responsibility of the federal government. The court toppled three of the four pillars of Arizona’s tough immigration law as being unconstitutional intrusions on its turf while undermining the last one standing. Tennessee lawmakers should pay attention and direct their energies in other directions when the next General Assembly convenes in January. The court struck down three key provisions of the Arizona law.

Editorial: Constant harassment of Muslims shameful (Daily News Journal)

In the buckle of the Bible Belt where many of us are taught to love our neighbors as ourselves, it is increasingly discouraging that the Muslim community must endure fear and hatred. But it is becoming increasingly clear that as long as the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro continues to build a mosque on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike, it will have to fight for its rights. A press conference held by federal authorities at the new mosque last week could be seen as a public relations effort to send a message about mosque bashing. Standing in front of the nearly-completed building, federal officials announced the indictment of Javier Alan Correa, 24, of Corpus Christi, Texas, for allegedly leaving an expletive-riddled bomb threat on the ICM’s answering machine on Sept. 5, 2011, just six days before the 10-year anniversary of 9/11.