This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Back in May, Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters that his administration was engaged in heavy dialogue with federal officials on expanding Medicaid and that the issue would likely be decided — one way or the other — during the summer. “I think if we haven’t made real progress by this summer, it will show that we’re not going to. I think it will come down to, here’s what CMS says it will do and that works for us or it won’t and we’ll know that by summer,” he said at the time. Summer has ended and with fall underway, the dialogue with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, continues — Haslam called it “this back and forth world” at one point — with no clear deadline for a decision, officials say.
State officials are set to formally announce efforts to increase the number of family justice centers across Tennessee. The event is scheduled Oct. 1, the first day of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Public Safety Action Plan to make the state safer, according to a press release. Family justice centers bring multiple agencies under one roof for a coordinated approach to providing domestic violence victims with a single location to access safety, advocacy, justice and other services needed to end the cycle of violence in the home.
Vice Minister Xu Lin of China, who oversees more than 400 Confucius Institutes around the world, will visit Tennessee on Monday to meet with Gov. Bill Haslam in Nashville and tour the Middle Tennessee State University campus. It will be Xu’s first visit to MTSU, which opened its Confucius Institute in April 2010 through a partnership with Hangzhou Normal University. She will come to Tennessee after a meeting this weekend at Western Kentucky University of Confucius Institute leaders from across the U.S.
The head of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance disputes allegations in a suit that emergency rules handed down by the agency limit the advice people can give in helping the uninsured sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Lawyers with the Tennessee Justice Center filed suit Friday asking a judge to strike down the rules for navigators, who do outreach work to inform people about health insurance opportunities, and counselors, who assist people in signing up for coverage. Volunteer counselors were included in those rules, spurring objections from religious and social service organizations.
Local folks coping with the state building a bridge over Broad Street share a history with those who disputed construction of the road. “It’s just one of those things we’ll have to adapt to,” said Terry Haynes, the managing partner of the Haynes Brothers Lumber Co. business that opened in 1951 below where the bridge will bypass a congested intersection on Broad Street, which is also part of U.S. Highway 41. Tennessee Department of Transportation and city officials contend the bridge that will cross over Broad where Old Fort Parkway becomes Memorial Boulevard is needed to relieve congestion at an intersection with 60,000 vehicles passing through per day.
To many consumers, the question is simple. “If they can sell beer in here, they should be able to sell wine,” Wil Prude, a shopper at a Brentwood Kroger, said on a recent afternoon. But debate over where wine can be sold has vexed anyone who thought it would be easy. From the 1970s, when Tennessee first looked at reforming its post-Prohibition liquor laws, to today, grocery stores and liquor stores have battled over who should be able to sell Tennesseans a bottle of their favorite Merlot, Chablis or Riesling. Liquor stores have won every fight so far. But they may not for much longer.
As medical director at the Shelby County Corrections Center, Dr. Donna Randolph has seen every one of the more than 2,300 inmates there at least once. She recalls one inmate in particular, a man who came in with such a serious heart condition and was so sick, she had him housed as close as possible to the clinic. But the last time she saw him he looked healthier and even asked to be moved, Randolph said. “I looked at him and smiled,” she said. “It’s the best I’ve ever seen him look.” Getting that inmate healthy wasn’t cheap.
To understand a proposed new anti-blight program about to go before the Memphis City Council, consider the little house at 3238 University Street in Frayser. It’s painted blue-green, scrawled with graffiti and its windows and doors are covered with plywood boards. The woman who lives next door, Tara Turner, 43, says she’s seen a man who has managed to sneak into the abandoned house and stay there, despite the boards. “It’s really scary because I’m a single mom here with my kids and my grandbaby,” Turner said. “I don’t even let her go outside.”
More than 28,000 Tennesseans will lose access to state-sponsored insurance programs that are either winding down or curtailing enrollment because of the Affordable Care Act. The programs include CoverKids, CoverTN, AccessTN and CoverRX. People affected by the changes can shop for replacement policies beginning Tuesday when the Health Insurance Marketplace, the exchange that offers subsidies toward lowering premium costs, goes active. But all may not qualify for the subsidies, which are based on income and whether coverage is offered by an employer. Letters are going out this week to explain the changes to people covered by AccessTN, a program for people who have pre-existing medical conditions, and by CoverRX, a prescription benefits program.
For months now, Oct. 1 has loomed as the pivotal date for the Affordable Care Act. Tuesday is the day the health exchanges — the federally run online marketplaces where people can shop for insurance — are supposed to go live. Potential shoppers who have computer access, who are Internet-savvy and have command over tax and income information should be able to log on to the government’s main website, HealthCare.gov, and start the enrollment process right away. But those in the Chattanooga area who need one-on-one help from a counselor will likely have to wait longer than Oct. 1 to sign up.
Julie Watters was driving down a narrow road in England listening to the radio Friday when the impact of the U.S. government’s possible shutdown on Tuesday really hit her. Service members might not get their paychecks on time. Her active-duty military husband might not get paid. But they still have to pay the bills. Ooltewah-born and raised, Watters and her husband, Staff Sgt. Barry Watters, have lived in England since May while he’s stationed at Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath. If the federal government can’t agree on a temporary spending bill by Tuesday, Watters — and as many as one-third of all federal workers — will be in a bind.
After building a $500 million-a-year trucking business across the United States, the founders of Access America are going global. Ted Alling, who started the Chattanooga logistics business in 2001, is launching Steam Logistics to handle international air and cargo shipments to expand. “We plan on having offices in Hong Kong, London, Toronto, all over the world,” he said. The overseas move is part of a growing global expansion by Chattanooga businesses eager to tap into bigger international markets for their goods and services. A new study by the Brookings Institution found that exports from Chattanooga area businesses grew at a faster pace after the Great Recession than they did prior to the economic downturn and export growth locally is outpacing the nationwide gains in such sales.
Knox County has roughly 15 months to build a new home for the Regional Forensic Center, forcing officials to scramble to find suitable property and enough money to get the project going. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Commission Chairman Brad Anders led a delegation of local officials to Nashville last week to enlist the help of Gov. Bill Haslam to secure funding. The center, where autopsies are performed for a 22-county region, is a necessity. Because the center is a regional resource, Haslam should make a priority of providing the estimated $10 million needed to build the center in next year’s budget. The University of Tennessee Medical Center has notified the county it will no longer provide space for the Regional Forensic Center, effective Dec. 31, 2014.
There is no entertainment value in it, but the state of Tennessee’s ability to get meth under control is breaking bad. In television’s acclaimed drama series of that name, it’s the ex-schoolteacher antihero who has gone to the dark side because of his health and personal crises; here in the real world, it’s the system for catching meth makers that has gone awry. If you’re not worried yet, you should be. The state is supposedly dependent on its offender registry to stop addicts and drug dealers at the point of purchase for over-the-counter cold medicines, which are the most common building block for making methamphetamine. But the database has more gaps than a meth addict’s jawbone.
When he kicked off his campaign against Lamar Alexander for the 2014 Republican U.S. Senate nomination in Tennessee, state Rep. Joe Carr used a standard analogy by comparing his effort to David and Goliath, casting himself as David, naturally. But last week, the two candidates strayed into more novel rhetorical and analogical territory by likening themselves to Tennessee historical figures who fled the state for Texas. Lamar explained, more or less, that he’s like Sam Houston. Joe, well, he’s a Davy sort of guy, it seems. As reported by Michael Collins, Alexander took to the U.S. Senate floor following Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s oratorical marathon against the Affordable Care Act last week to recall that both Crockett and Houston fought for Texas’ independence from Mexico after leaving Tennessee.
Tuesday morning, the Affordable Care Act becomes a new norm. A good new norm. Sure, it will have some kinks, but nothing that can’t be worked out by thinking members of the U.S. Congress on both sides of the aisle who really care about their country and their fellow man — not just about the sound of their voices. With the new health insurance exchanges debuting this week, this Affordable Care Act is offering insurance and plan choices so everyone can be covered by insurance. No one will be shut out anymore. Before tax credits, that work like upfront discounts for most who will enroll, the average premium cost for an individual will be about $328 a month nationally.