This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Living a healthier lifestyle is something a lot of us want to do, especially over the holidays. But where do we start? Gov. Bill Haslam recently launched an initiative called “Healthier Tennessee starTNow to encourage Tennesseans to exercise, eat right and not to smoke. One place you can start is around the Thanksgiving table. You can enjoy all the dishes, but do so in moderation. Take a brisk walk after dinner to burn off some extra calories. And before the day is over, spend time with your loved ones to talk about diseases and conditions that run in your family.
At the high point of the choreographed celebration, Gov. Bill Haslam turned to a video that let kids count down to the big winner. Which state had outperformed all others in education gains? “Tennessee!” A state long marred by a dismal record in student achievement had risen to the top in test gains among fourth- and eighth-grade students, according to the “nation’s report card” released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and administered by the U.S. Department of Education.
Some Tennessee teachers say their professional morale is abysmal after a three-year statewide pounding that ended the promises of contract negotiations and annual raises, then tied their tenure and teaching licenses to student test scores — even if the subjects they teach don’t appear on standardized tests. In the meantime, they’ve been asked to adjust to two major jumps in education standards — one that Tennessee took on its own in 2010 and then, this year, teaching to the Common Core State Standards, a national consortium to make sure kids in 45 states are reaching the same goals at the same time.
Thousands of Tennesseans were able to breathe sighs of relief last week when the state announced that their canceled health insurance policies would stay in force for another year. But there hasn’t been that kind of respite for Nancy Colvin. Colvin, who works at a privately owned assisted living facility, is among 15,400 Tennesseans who get health insurance through the state’s “stopgap” program CoverTN, which is still scheduled to hit the chopping block Dec. 31. “It’s very scary knowing it will end,” said Colvin, who has medical problems and says replacement plans she has researched are too expensive.
Solving traffic snarls on Interstate 24 in Chattanooga most likely won’t involve building double-decker lanes around Moccasin Bend or drilling a new truck tunnel through Missionary Ridge, as suggested by a couple of commuters. Given environmental, historical and financial constraints, new traffic lanes and interchanges through the downtown portion of I-24 probably aren’t in the cards, either. But a bevy of lesser solutions could come out in January at the end of a yearlong planning process by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade says he does not believe politics was involved in the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission’s tentative recommendation against new terms for three appellate court judges though he still disagrees with the recommendation. Wade and Charles D. Susano Jr. of Knoxville, presiding judge of the Court of Appeals, were both named to their posts by Democratic governors while members of the commission are appointed by the speakers of the House and Senate, now both Republicans.
Members of Congress have received health insurance coverage through a federal plan, but now they are required to sign up with the health insurance exchanges in Obamacare. U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., isn’t happy about it. “If I could get out of the exchange, I would get out of it,” Roe said during a recent conference call with reporters. “I never wanted in it to start with. We’re the only group of people in the country specifically required by law to buy insurance through the exchange.” Roe is also incensed he has to purchase a top-of-the-line “gold” plan in the exchange.
Imagine being able to build a website from scratch or design an app for iPhone or Android users that creates a buzz in the technology world. For Jackson-Madison County high school students this isn’t a daydream. It’s a reality thanks to two local businessmen, the school district and the Jackson Chamber of Commerce’s partnership to start computing coding clubs in the district. Madison Academic freshman Ashkan Neshagaran, 14, said while the lessons are challenging, they are also enjoyable. “It’s like learning a foreign language,” he said. “It takes so much to get into, but once you’re into it, it can be fun.”
When discussing Medicaid expansion, our liberal friends tend to focus on the emotional side of the argument while completely ignoring the long-term fiscal ramifications that expansion would inevitably bring to Tennessee. Instead of considering how expansion would force basic state services to be cut and taxes to be raised in order to pay for increased Medicaid enrollment, Democrats submit that the best decision is to simply pass a law to force expansion to take place, again with absolutely no concern for how our state budget would be turned upside down three or four years down the road.
Last week, The Jackson Sun gave a number of healthcare reasons why Gov. Bill Haslam should move forward and expand Medicaid. While I agree with much of what was written, there is more to consider that points toward expansion. Earlier this year, Gov. Haslam announced a “Tennessee Plan” similar to Arkansas’ that would allow people to use federal money to buy insurance on the open market exchanges. He promised a more detailed plan by summer. As yet, he has not disclosed any particulars about it. The consequences of inaction, unfortunately, will reach far beyond the health of 300,000 uninsured Tennesseans.