This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Santa came early this year to Kayser-Roth, bringing a visit by the Governor of Tennessee as a gift to the Dayton plant. Gov. Bill Haslam was unable to be a part of the actual birthday bash in October; however, he found himself close to Dayton on Dec. 11, and stopped by to wish Kayser-Roth a “happy one hundredth birthday.” A number of Dayton and Rhea County dignitaries were on hand to greet the governor, along with employees of the mill and our state representative. There were many introductions of those present, lots of pictures taken; then, a plant tour was given.
Medicaid About half the states have signed on to a Medicaid expansion funded entirely by the federal government for the first three years, and most have done so by simply extending the program to adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. But there have been a few experiments, among them Arkansas’ plan to use Medicaid expansion money to purchase private coverage for new beneficiaries. That program required a special waiver from the feds, but Arkansas leaders successfully argued that it better fit the state’s needs and politics.
A former state worker has been charged with a felony for emailing himself personal information on 6,300 Nashville teachers. Steven T. Hunter, 24, was arrested by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on Thursday for allegedly storing Social Security numbers and other information on his personal computer before resigning last week from the state Department of the Treasury. Investigators discovered Hunter also used his personal computer to research how to sell Social Security numbers and read articles about people who had been arrested for identity theft, according to an arrest warrant.
In April 2013, Tennessee became the 44th state to pass a sports concussion law designed to reduce youth sports concussions and increase awareness of traumatic brain injury. The law, Public Chapter 148, which goes into effect Jan. 1, has three key components: • To inform and educate coaches, youth athletes and their parents and require them to sign a concussion information form before competing. • To require removal of a youth athlete who appears to have suffered a concussion from play or practice at the time of the suspected concussion. • To require a youth athlete to be cleared by a licensed health care professional before returning to play or practice.
Mayors Mark Luttrell and A C Wharton want new authority from the state to attack blight in Memphis and Shelby County and increased funding for health, education, anti-crime and job-training programs. The mayors presented a joint list of priorities for action in the state Capitol to Shelby County’s legislative delegation Friday, plus separate city and county wish lists. The delegation held a public meeting at the University of Memphis for the mayors and other local government officials and agencies to present their requests for legislative action for the General Assembly’s 2014 session that convenes Jan. 14.
Knox County officials spent a day this week touring other regional medical examiners’ offices in preparation of opening one here. They learned from Davidson and Shelby county medical examiners’ staff what works and what doesn’t. They also learned the state handed out $5 million to help open each regional center, the same amount Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett has asked from Gov. Bill Haslam for the center, which would serve 22 East Tennessee counties. “That’s why we’re making the request,” Knox County finance director Chris Caldwell said. Caldwell and others learned the centers cost more than the $5 million the state gave.
Months of controversy and irregularities at the Shelby County Election Commission evidently has kindled the interest of the FBI, though the probe’s focus remains unclear and is now a source of even more contention at the embattled county agency. Democratic Election Commissioner Norma Lester said Friday the FBI contacted her this week in what amounts to a courtesy call, informing her that an investigation is under way. “I really don’t know what is the substance of the investigation,’’ she said. “I hope we know soon.’’ However, Commission Chairman Robert Meyers, a Republican, said he has no information about such an investigation — and he’s skeptical of reports that a probe is under way.
To the outside world, it came across as mood swings and anger. But Regina Cullison would later be told by psychiatrists she struggled with depression and anxiety—and that she needed help. And that is where her trouble began and ended. According to her mother, there were few psychiatrists in the county who took private insurance. When Ms. Cullison lost her job as a dentist’s assistant, and with it her insurance, she switched to a nonprofit facility. Doctors came and went, and none stayed long enough to establish a regular pattern of treatment. After two years, Ms. Cullison abandoned her search for professional help and tried marijuana. Her mother, Carolyn Cullison, who is the director of a mental-health peer support group, said that helped push away the demons.
A spree of surprise changes to the health-care law in recent weeks has rattled insurers, who say the Obama administration’s pronouncements could undermine the law’s new marketplaces. The latest change, announced Thursday, days before the Dec. 23 deadline to choose coverage starting Jan. 1, allows people of any age whose current coverage is being phased out under the law to buy so-called catastrophic coverage. These plans, with limited benefits and high deductibles, were mainly reserved for customers under age 30. In November, President Barack Obama urged insurers to resurrect plans that had been canceled for next year.
Ginger Chapman and her husband, Doug, are sitting on the health care cliff. The cheapest insurance plan they can find through the new federal marketplace in New Hampshire will cost their family of four about $1,000 a month, 12 percent of their annual income of around $100,000 and more than they have ever paid before. Even more striking, for the Chapmans, is this fact: If they made just a few thousand dollars less a year — below $94,200 — their costs would be cut in half, because a family like theirs could qualify for federal subsidies. The Chapmans acknowledge that they are better off than many people, but they represent a little-understood reality of the Affordable Care Act.
On the eve of the fifth anniversary of its worst environmental disaster, the Tennessee Valley Authority said Friday it will receive another $150 million from one of its insurers to help pay for the ongoing cleanup from the 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston, Tenn. ACE Bermuda Insurance Ltd., a property and casualty insurance company, will pay TVA for a portion of the damages to nearly 300 acres of property caused when a dike ruptured and spilled coal ash into the river and nearby land. The insurance settlement, which was reached under an arbitration agreement between TVA and ACE, is believed to be the biggest insurance payment ever to TVA.
It’s been five years since an epic industrial disaster at a coal plant in East Tennessee. Millions of tons of leftover ash were piled up wet inside a huge earthen wall, and on December 22, 2008, that wall broke. The massive sludge spill at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant blanketed the surrounding countryside and two nearby rivers, and cost a billion dollars to clean up. You can see TVA’s dramatic side-by-side video of the spill site then and now at this link. The flood of gray muck flowed over acres of land, knocking one house off its foundation and ruining others.
Documents obtained from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office through an open records request shed light into ongoing discussions between local, state and federal leaders and German Volkswagen officials about the possibility of unionization at Chattanooga’s VW plant. One of the documents, an email from a former Volkswagen Chattanooga official, indicated that Dr. Thomas Steg, Frank Patta and Ariane Kilian—all German officials—were scheduled to have a series of meetings in Chattanooga and Washington, D.C., Oct. 28. Steg is the head of government relations for Volkswagen Group. Patta is a general secretary of the Volkswagen Global Works Council, and Kilian is a government relations specialist for Volkswagen Group. Both Steg and Patta are considered pro-union leaders in Germany.
The Germantown Municipal School Board has offered the district’s first superintendent job to Houston Middle School principal Jason Manuel. The board voted unanimously for Manuel during a special meeting at the Municipal Center Friday afternoon. Manuel watched the meeting from inside a Houston Middle School classroom as someone attending the board meeting live streamed it from an iPad. The feed cut out before the vote, but Manuel had heard enough of the discussion. “We had a pretty good idea that I was going to be getting a phone call,” Manuel said.