This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that he will allow an extension to Tennessee residents whose health insurance plans were deemed invalid under the federal health care law. The one-year extension comes after President Barack Obama announced last week that state insurance commissioners could allow health care insurers to extend current plans that would otherwise be canceled in 2014. Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak says it will be left up to Tennessee insurance providers to determine whether it is feasible to offer the previously canceled policies.
Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak announced today that the state will permit insurers to extend policies to Tennesseans for one year that would have otherwise been cancelled. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee announced Friday that it would continue to offer canceled plans, pending state approval. No other insurers could immediately be reached for comment. The following are excerpts from today’s news release from the governor’s office: “Tennesseans should be able to keep the health care coverage that they were promised they could keep,” Haslam said.
The state of Tennessee will allow insurers to continue to offer plans that otherwise would have fallen short of new requirements under the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Commerce and Insurance officially authorized the one-year continuation of those plans on Tuesday. “Tennesseans should be able to keep the health care coverage that they were promised they could keep,” said Gov. Bill Haslam in a release. “To have an insurance market with a variety of options is good for consumers and good for Tennessee.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday that the state will allow insurance companies to extend health insurance policies canceled under the Affordable Care Act for one year. The decision comes five days after President Barack Obama unexpectedly announced last week that health insurers could extend plans facing cancellation because they do not cover health benefits deemed essential under the new law. The president has faced heavy criticism for the fact that millions of health insurance policies were canceled across the country despite his assurances that Americans could keep their plans if they liked them.
Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday gave his stamp of approval to giving health insurers in Tennessee the power to allow customers to keep coverage in 2014 that won’t meet new standards set by federal health care reform. “Tennesseans should be able to keep the health care coverage that they were promised they could keep,” Haslam said in a statement issued by his Nashville office. President Obama, acknowledging that he had repeated that people could keep their plans if they liked them under the Affordable Care Act, last week called for the one-year extension.
The Haslam administration announced Tuesday that it will allow insurance companies in Tennessee to renew private medical-coverage policies that don’t meet minimum requirements set forth in the Affordable Acre Act. A statement released from Gov. Haslam’s office indicates the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Industry is giving the go-ahead to insurance companies doing business here to take President Barack Obama up on his promise to forgo enforcing elements of the new federal health care law for one year. “Tennesseans should be able to keep the health care coverage that they were promised they could keep,” Haslam said in the release.
Just a few days after President Obama said that millions of consumers should be able to keep their old insurance plans for another year — even if they did not meet the requirements of his health care law — he is finding support among states that would not exactly be described as allies. Of the 13 states that have so far said they will allow consumers to renew canceled plans, all but four are led by Republican governors and have generally been opposed to the new health care law. Of the eight that have said they will not carry out the policy, six are in Democratic-led states, many of which have actively worked to put the law into effect and have argued that allowing such an extension could undermine its success.
The governor has little hope the state can keep its CoverTN program for one more year under the Affordable Care Act before shifting people to buy coverage on the federal exchanges, he told reporters Monday. The limited benefit health insurance plan designed to fill gaps in coverage for people who have trouble accessing health insurance is scheduled to end on Dec. 31 because it no longer qualifies as an acceptable program under the Affordable Care Act. But with the president’s announcement last week that people who like their current plans may be able to keep them for one more year, the TennCare Deputy Commissioner Darin Gordon is trying to find out if that rule would hold true under the state program.
Approximately 400,000 Tennesseans may be without health care insurance, if Tennessee doesn’t expand Medicaid, according to the Tennessee Hospital Association. It’s a population in what’s called the “Gap Group,” made up of people who don’t make enough for subsidies on the federal exchange, but make too much to get coverage through TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid managed care program. To receive a subsidy, or tax break, on insurance purchased through the federal marketplace, a person must earn between 100% and 400% of the poverty level. For an individual, that’s $11,490 to $45,960. A family of four would qualify between $23,550 and $94,200. With very few exceptions, Obamacare will require everyone to have health insurance by March 31, 2014.
Gov. Bill Haslam has announced that Tennessee had the largest academic growth on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress of any state, making Tennessee the fastest improving state in the nation. And hearing word about that has left optimism at the local level. Dr. Rebecca Sharber, Franklin County director of schools, explained why she believes the educational gains were made. “I think the improvement shown by Tennessee students validates the hard work of our educators and our communities,” she said.
There was no reason for two Smyrna children to be placed in the back seat of the black Pontiac where they were left to die on a summer day. The car’s license plate was expired. Its engine did not run. That’s what authorities found when they tried to start the car Aug. 2, 2012, according to records recently released by the Department of Children’s Services. That day, 2-year-old Daniel and 3-year-old Savannah Marise died in the car and their mother, Samantha Harper, 25, was jailed. In the DCS records, relatives said Harper knew the car didn’t work. She awaits a December court hearing and five-day trial in February on two counts each of murder and especially aggravated child abuse.
The GED testing service is easing up on the rules for retaking the test to help people trying to pass before the current version expires on Dec. 31. Normally test takers are limited to taking the GED test three times a year. But people who have taken all three versions of the GED test this year can retake the test or parts of it as long as 60 days have passed. The GED test is being revised, and all scores will expire at the end of this year. Test takers who haven’t passed every section will have to start over with the new test or the alternative high school equivalency test called HiSET.
After 22 straight years of tuition hikes, the University of Memphis announced Tuesday its commitment to break the streak by keeping rates steady next school year — a decision that will ultimately rest with the Tennessee Board of Regents and not the university. In a news release issued Tuesday, the University of Memphis announced it “will not recommend or support a tuition increase for 2014-15.” The release quotes interim president R. Brad Martin saying, “Affordability is a key element of student access and successful degree completion at the University of Memphis … Effective allocation of available resources and improved efficiencies at the University will permit this to occur while we focus on serving more students and improving graduation rates.”
Delegates of a recent Rutherford Education Association Representative Assembly took an unprecedented move to unanimously adopt a position of no confidence in Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman. “Commissioner Huffman wants to make Tennessee the ‘fastest’ improving state in terms of education,” Rutherford Education Association President Emily Mitchell said. “It seems to me that if you want to go fast, you go by yourself, but if you want to go far, you go together. I wish the commissioner would include input from the outstanding educators we have in this great state so that students, teachers, parents and community members could go far together.”
Military police records from the Civil War era are being posted in an online database by the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The Union provost marshal records dating from 1861 to 1867 include correspondence, oaths of allegiance, orders, permits, prisoner lists and claims for compensation for property damaged by the military. The War Department records were originally microfilmed by the National Archives. State archivists and volunteers have been scanning documents relating to Tennesseans since 2011.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol are reaching out to communities across the state to offer help in reducing traffic fatalities. The Tennessean reports that the agencies are putting more resources in counties that have the largest increase in fatal crashes. “Some people might say it’s reactive, but we have a plan in place that when you see the numbers and a crash happens, then you go in instead of waiting a year for grant money,” said Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole. “It helps us go in immediately and say ‘OK, what can we do?'”
A new law that many Tennessee drivers may not be aware of allows motorists to use electronic devices to show proof of insurance in the event they are ever pulled over. As more people depend on their smart phones and tablets, electronic insurance cards help prevent motorists the hassle of going to court if they are pulled over and their insurance cards are expired. “A lot of times when we approach the vehicle, they will have their phone in hand with their insurance or E-card already ready to go,” Sgt. Bill Miller of the Tennessee Highway Patrol said.
Wildlife officers told us they were coming, and now the Asian carp are in Tennessee and out of control. The problem is so bad, in fact, the state is now having to get creative to get rid of the invasive species. The state has considered coming up with some sort of chemical to put in the water that would only kill Asian carp, but that’s a long-term solution possibly 10 to 15 years away. What they need is something to fix the problem right now, and state officials say they now have an idea that just might work. “They will take our lakes and rivers over until where you can’t run a boat or a Sea-Doo. You can hang it up,” said fisherman J.R. Johnson.
Local reimbursement for housing state inmates tops a legislative wish list the Montgomery County Commission will review at its December meeting. The 10-point 2014 state Legislative Agenda, being proposed by the Legislative Liaison Committee, calls for a solution to the ever-growing problem of housing state inmates in the local jail because of state prison overcrowding, and the resulting costs incurred by Montgomery County taxpayers. The committee is asking county commissioners to back its petitioning of the state Legislature to increase the daily reimbursement rate for Tennessee Department of Corrections inmates occupying the Montgomery County Jail.
A year after tainted drugs from a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts caused a meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people, legislation backed by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) which would give the Food and Drug Administration more power to oversee the industry is on its way to President Obama’s desk. “I worked with others members of Congress for a year to find a solution that would help prevent a repeat of the tragic meningitis outbreak that has killed 16 Tennesseans and made so many others so sick,” said Alexander in a news release.
President Barack Obama has announced $100 million in grants to help better prepare high school students to compete in the global economy. The White House says the Youth CareerConnect program will help schools train students for in-demand industries, including science, technology, engineering and math. The government will award up to 40 grants to allow high schools to team up with higher education institutions and employers. The grants will be awarded early next year. Money for the awards will come from the Labor Department.
President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget plan may have died in Congress, but one of its provisions to consider selling the Tennessee Valley Authority is still under study. The Office of Management and Budget, which proposed in April that the federally-owned TVA be sold to help pay down the U.S. debt, has organized an inter-agency working group with TVA “to conduct a strategic review of TVA,” acccording to a memo obtained by the Federal Times. “The administration is evaluating a broad range of options to address TVA’s capital financing constraints,” OMB says in the memo.
The Tennessee Valley Authority says it provided $547 million in tax equivalent payments in fiscal year 2013 to states and local governments where it sells electricity or has power properties. TVA says it makes tax equivalent payments annually in the eight states where it sells electricity or owns generating plants, transmission lines, substations and other assets. It also makes tax equivalent payments to 146 local governments where it owns power facilities. The electricity provider says this year’s payments were $32 million less than the $579 million distributed in 2012.
Wednesday, Volkswagen will show off a concept for an SUV that could be built in Tennessee. It’s one of many vehicles on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Volkswagen unveiled the CrossBlue Coupe in Shanghai earlier this year. The German automaker talked up the SUV as a high performance vehicle that can go from 0 to 60 in less than six seconds. VW board member Ulrich Hackenberg says it’s really a V-6 plug-in hybrid. “Actually, we should really be talking about an SUV sports car here. So, this SUV would be an ideal vehicle for commuters who simply want to switch over to electric drive when entering the city area.”
It’s official now. With the unanimous 7-0 passage Tuesday night by the unified Shelby County Schools board of template agreements with the municipalities of Arlington and Lakeland, the long-standing litigation over new school-district arrangements in Shelby County is fast on its way to conclusion. Mayor Keith McDonald of Bartlett, who was in attendance,said categorically that his city was eager to follow the lead of his fellow mayors, Mike Wissman of Arlington and Wyatt Bunker of Lakeland, who endorsed the agreements Tuesday night on behalf of their municipalities.
The Shelby County Schools board approved unanimously Tuesday, Nov. 19, agreements to sell four school buildings and material in those school buildings to the forming Arlington and Lakeland municipal school systems. The school board approvals on a set of four 7-0 votes Tuesday evening at a special meeting is the first hurdle of several to come for the tentative agreements that first surfaced Monday at the Shelby County Commission meeting with word from those in the negotiations. The commission meets next in special session Thursday to vote on the agreements.
Tennessee received some exciting news this month about the progress we’re making in education. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results for 2013 were released, and Tennessee students showed the largest growth of any other state. Tennessee also had the largest growth of any state in a single testing cycle since NAEP began nationwide testing a decade ago. NAEP, also known as the “nation’s report card,” is a highly-regarded independent assessment that tests fourth and eighth graders in reading and math, and Tennessee students made significant gains on all four tests. Tennessee’s scores showed students improving half a grade level compared to just two years ago.
Tennessee and Arkansas are among the most advanced states in what should be one of the least controversial products of the education reform movement. The stepped-up collection of data on student performance by both states can improve the work of educators, parents and policymakers in the Mid-South. Tennessee, which has long been recognized as a cradle for longitudinal studies of student performance, was listed on the Data Quality Campaign report this week as one of 14 states with the country’s most sophisticated education data systems. Across the river, Arkansas was recognized by the organization for its success in making information about school districts and schools accessible to the public.
The country is engaged in a fierce debate about two educational reforms that bear directly on the future of its schoolchildren: first, teacher evaluation systems that are taking hold just about everywhere, and, second, the Common Core learning standards that have been adopted by all but a few states and are supposed to move the schools toward a more challenging, writing-intensive curriculum. Both reforms — or at least the principles behind them — got a welcome boost from reading and math scores released recently by the federal government. Although the nation as a whole still has a long way to go to match high-performing school systems abroad, states that have toughened their teacher evaluations and standards have shown positive results.