This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Governor Bill Haslam met this morning with several families of young men who died serving America’s military, ahead of the state’s Memorial Day ceremony. The event took place on the plaza outside the War Memorial Building downtown, where Haslam said he often walks, and noted an inscription of a quote from Woodrow Wilson: “America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for those principals that gave her birth.” Nice words on a building, Haslam says, but survivors at the event have felt it: “The sacrifice gets real real. It’s great for people like me to talk in platitudes but there’s families here that have had to make that very real.”
Gov. Bill Haslam paid tribute to the memories of Tennessee troops killed in action and to their surviving families as he proclaimed Friday the first Gold Star Family Day in state history. Haslam was joined Friday at a ceremony at the War Memorial Plaza in Nashville by state first lady Crissy Haslam, state Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Adjutant General Max Haston, commander of the Tennessee National Guard. “The entire family feels the pain when a serviceman is killed,” spokeswoman Yvette Martinez said.
In Tennessee, the observance of the Memorial Day weekend began at 10 a.m. on Friday at Nashville’s War Memorial Plaza, as Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam hosted the Governor’s Memorial Day Ceremony. Together with Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Maj. Gen. Terry “Max” Haston of the Tennessee Military Department, the Haslams paid tribute to three Tennesseans killed in action, including a Korean War soldier missing for 62 years.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam joined Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Major General Terry “Max” Haston of the Tennessee Military Department to pay tribute to three Tennesseans killed in action, including a soldier previously missing in action for 62 years. Sergeant Jacob M. Schwallie of Clarksville, was fatally injured by a roadside bomb on May 7th, 2012 in the Ghazi Province, Afghanistan. Schwallie graduated from Rossview High School in 2007 and enlisted in the United States Army in 2008.
If negotiations to expand health coverage for poor people in Tennessee using federal money don’t show progress this summer, Gov. Bill Haslam says they might not ever. Haslam says the state is still discussing the matter with federal officials. Haslam is looking for a way to accept hundreds of millions of Medicaid dollars, without drawing ire from lawmakers who want nothing to do with Obamacare. And he pointed to a poll out this week from Vanderbilt: “If you looked at it in terms of ‘do you think we should expand Medicaid,’ the answer is yes. ‘Do you like Obamacare,’ the answer was no.”
Gov. Bill Haslam said he should know this summer whether the state can strike a deal with the federal government over an alternative plan to offering health care coverage to more poor people. Encouraged by ongoing talks with the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services about crafting a way to take advantage of federal dollars to cover the costs, Haslam said the key now is ensuring flexibility in the state’s program.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday that he expects to know by the end of the summer whether a deal can be reached with federal officials over TennCare expansion. The remark was the first time the governor has suggested a timetable for a final decision on the issue. “It’s not a question of lack of dialogue,” Haslam told reporters after a Memorial Day commemoration on War Memorial Plaza. “I think if we haven’t made real progress by this summer, it’ll show that we’re not going to.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday he is “making progress” in discussions with the federal government about expanding health coverage to more working poor, and he should know by summer’s end whether an agreement is likely. At stake is an estimated $1 billion a year in federal money to provide health insurance for an estimated 180,000 Tennesseans with incomes up to 138 percent of federal poverty level.
State Treasurer David Lillard says expanding health care costs could absorb funding the state used to spend on other needs. The Jackson Sun reported Lillard talked about the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act on Tennessee finances as he spoke to the West Tennessee Association of Health Underwriters on Thursday. Lillard noted the state budget that goes into effect July 1 contains $391 million in new revenue and more than $300 million of that will be consumed by TennCare.
Gov. Bill Haslam will formally administer the oath to Knox County Circuit Court Judge Deborah Stevens at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Small Assembly Room of the City County Building. Stevens was appointed by Haslam to replace Wheeler Rosenbalm, who retired Jan. 1. Knox County Juvenile Court Judge Tim Irwin swore her into the position after Haslam appointed her so she could begin hearing cases and helping with the docket. A reception will follow the swearing-in, probably in the hallway outside the Small Assembly Room, Stevens said.
Queen Elizabeth’s youngest son, Prince Edward, visited Tennessee on Thursday to promote one of the British royal family’s charities, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. The prince presided over an awards ceremony at the governor’s mansion for the first batch of young Tennesseans to participate in the leadership and character program. “Most of you are — how should I put this — guinea pigs? The first ones to go through the award,” the prince said.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has been awarded $680,000 for exceeding federal performance goals in 2011, according to a news release. According to the release, 15 states qualified for the incentive grant. Of those states, Tennessee’s award was the fifth largest. States are awarded for exceeding performance goals in workforce development and education programs.
The state will move from landlord to tenant next February when the offices for nearly 400 Tennessee employees in Chattanooga are moved out of two state-owned buildings that consultants say are “functionally obsolete.” But while state offices will vacate the downtown structures, another branch of state government — the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga — is eager to acquire those buildings, or at least the land upon which they sit. “UTC is extremely interested in the acquisition of those properties, which we have identified in our new master plan,” UTC Vice Chancellor Richard Brown said.
Representatives from Rutherford Books from Birth thanked Amazon – the world’s largest online retailer and a statewide partner of the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation (GBBF) – for its recent $6,250 contribution to the Imagination Library program in Rutherford County at an event hosted Friday by Wee Care Day Care Center. The gift was one-fourth of Amazon’s total donation to the GBBF ($25,000), which was distributed evenly among the four counties where Amazon has fulfillment centers – Bradley, Hamilton, Rutherford and Wilson – and used to provide free, high-quality, age-appropriate books to preschool children (up to 5 years old) living in those areas.
A Boston company that will start administering dental benefits for roughly 750,000 TennCare beneficiaries starting Oct. 1 was cited in a recent audit of Massachusetts’ Medicaid program for deficiencies in its oversight of dentists’ billings for certain procedures. DentaQuest beat out three other bidders, including Delta Dental of Tennessee, the state’s largest provider of dental benefits and the current vendor, whose three-year contract ends Sept. 30. The win represents an expansion of DentaQuest’s business with Tennessee.
Government health officials are investigating cases involving patients who suffered complications after being injected with potentially contaminated medications made by a Tennessee specialty pharmacy. The Food and Drug Administration said Friday the problems involve seven patients who received steroid injections from Main Street Family Pharmacy, a compounding pharmacy in Newbern, Tenn. Tennessee health officials said the pharmacy has agreed to recall all of its sterile products, which are generally injectable prescription drugs.
Six months after state officials found multiple violations at a West Tennessee compounding pharmacy but did not shut it down, the pharmacy is the apparent source of infections in two states. Main Street Family Pharmacy LLC in Newbern recalled all its sterile products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday, after methylprednisolone acetate it made was linked to seven cases of injection site inflammation in Illinois and North Carolina. One of the cases appears to involve a fungus, the FDA said.
State and federal health officials are investigating a series of seven “adverse effects” in patients who received injections of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate compounded in a West Tennessee pharmacy. Methylprednisolone acetate, or MPA, is the same medicine implicated in last fall’s deadly, multistate meningitis outbreak, though Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner said there’s no indication this instance “approaches the severity” of last fall’s outbreaks.
There are new reports of illness related to injected steroids, this time traced back to a compounding pharmacy in Tennessee. An outbreak that originated with the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts last year sickened hundreds and killed 55 people, including 15 Tennesseans. This is exactly the same drug – methylprednisolone acetate. It’s free of preservatives, meaning it can’t last as long on the shelf without going bad. At this point, federal health officials have discovered seven patients who’ve fallen ill, though no cases of meningitis or what investigators call “life-threatening infections.”
State parks officials say their investigation into a Coalmont, Tenn., man’s fatal fall from a natural bridge in a small park near Sewanee, Tenn., was inconclusive. First responders from Franklin County and the town of Sewanee found David Binkley Cash, 47, May 18 after he fell from Natural Bridge, Sheriff Tim Fuller said Friday. They immediately turned the scene over to state parks officials, he said. Meg Lockhart, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said Cash was taken to meet a medical helicopter in Sewanee.
Ruling could have far-reaching consequences for businesses that evict customers Businesses across Tennessee could be held responsible for the actions of drunken customers they kick out if the state’s high court sides with a woman injured in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Jolyn Cullum, 38, was hurt in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart near Chattanooga in February 2011, when Jan McCool, 53, hit her while backing out of a parking space. Minutes earlier, McCool had been kicked out of the store, allegedly for being belligerently drunk.
As the Scenic City’s population continues to swell, Chattanooga is getting closer to edging out Knoxville as the most populous city in East Tennessee, U.S. Census Bureau estimates show. Chattanooga grew 2.15 percent from 2010 to 2012, reaching a population of 171,279 last year. Knoxville grew 1.85 percent to reach 182,200 residents. But annexation by Chattanooga should bring in another 6,500 residents in coming months, said City Councilman Larry Grohn, which further will close the gap with Knoxville.
The number of residents and business owners protesting newly assessed values of their property this spring was a little more than half what it was four years ago, something Knox County officials say is proof the reappraisal process was much smoother. “It’s a lot different than it was in 2009,” said Property Assessor Phil Ballard. “Last time everything was going up — gas, unemployment and foreclosures, and in their minds, many people expected a drop in the value of their homes.”
The refusal by about half the states to expand Medicaid will leave millions of poor people ineligible for government-subsidized health insurance under President Obama’s health care law even as many others with higher incomes receive federal subsidies to buy insurance. Starting next month, the administration and its allies will conduct a nationwide campaign encouraging Americans to take advantage of new high-quality affordable insurance options. But those options will be unavailable to some of the neediest people in states like Texas, Florida, Kansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia, which are refusing to expand Medicaid.
Summer is starting on a roll for a Memphis tourist industry still rebounding from the recession. Larger than normal crowds gathered Friday morning at Graceland, the city’s most visited tourism site. And full Downtown hotels turned away walk up patrons trying to find a Memorial Day weekend room without reservations. Memphis in May activities, concerts and the home stand by the Memphis Grizzlies professional basketball team has the city bustling. But it’s still not clear whether tourism, one of the top four industries in Memphis, will entirely recover amid a soft American economy held back by a 7.5-percent national jobless rate.
The city’s tourism and travel industry is thriving as a one-of-a-kind destination for leisure and business travelers, but industry insiders believe a larger, technologically updated convention center is needed in years to come if Memphis wants to remain competitive in bringing larger groups to town. What’s obvious now is that the city is still a huge draw for travelers looking to sample local cuisine and culture. About 10 million people visit Memphis each year, including leisure, business, convention, and sports travel segments, and Memphis and Shelby County account for more than $3.2 billion in tourist expenditures each year, according to a study from the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development through the National Travel Data Center.
Nashville cut the ribbon this month on Music City Center, its massive new convention center that some Memphis leaders would like to match. It is very tempting to point out that we have chased other cities in the past with these kind of massive civic projects and not fared well at all. It took Nashville three years to build what is the most expensive capital project in the state’s history at $500 million. That is twice what FedExForum cost. And we don’t need to get in an arms race with the top tier of convention cities, a fight Nashville is picking with an almost immediate answer from Cleveland, which has a new convention center opening this summer.
Cutbacks in the military budget and the still-recovering economy mean this Memorial Day weekend will go down as a relatively subdued affair — relative, that is, to Americans’ usual end-of-school, official-start-of-summer blowout. The weekend will pass without some of the usual fly-overs and military bands. Sponsors of Memorial Day events in some parts of the country say they are having trouble rounding up corporate sponsors. And in a chilling reminder of the Boston Marathon bombing, security costs have gone up wherever crowds gather.
As schools everywhere strive to improve the academic performance of their students, many have cut physical education and recess periods to leave more time for sedentary classroom instruction. A sensible new report from the Institute of Medicine, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences, shows how shortsighted this trend can be. It found that exercise can significantly improve children’s cognitive abilities and their academic performance, as well as their health. Students who exercise have lower body fat, greater muscular strength, and better cardiovascular and mental health.