This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments has set a Jan. 17 deadline for applications to fill a chancery court vacancy in the 24th Judicial District covering Benton, Carroll, Decatur, Hardin and Henry counties. Licensed attorneys are eligible to apply if they are at least 30 years old, have lived in the state for at least five years and are residents of the district. The panel plans to interview all qualified applicants beginning Jan. 23. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam created the applicant review panel through an executive order after state lawmakers let its predecessor expire in June. Its members will decide on three finalists for the governor to choose from.
State Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said Monday he’s going to work to keep his District 26 seat. And he may not face competition. McCormick told the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club that, if elected, he would work with other Tennessee Republicans to increase teacher pay, weaken or dismantle the Hall income tax and seek to have wine sold in grocery stores in the state. The teacher pay effort is part of a push by Gov. Bill Haslam, who has said he wants teacher pay in the state to be the fastest growing in the nation — but not necessarily the highest. Republicans also have been working to get rid of the Hall tax.
What issues are at the forefront of local lawmakers’ minds? Find out and get a chance to ask your own questions of legislators Saturday at the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ annual Legislative Preview Luncheon. The public is invited to the event, set for noon Saturday at Bearden Banquet Hall, 5806 Kingston Pike. Doors will open at 11:30 a.m. WUOT’s Brandon Hollingsworth will moderate the discussion. State Sens. Stacey Campfield, Becky Duncan Massey and Randy McNally have confirmed they will attend, along with Reps. Bill Dunn, Ryan Haynes, Roger Kane, Gloria Johnson, Art Swann and Kent Calfee.
Taxpayers across the country are on the hook for the Affordable Care Act’s prescribed Medicaid expansion costs, regardless of whether their state government decides to opt in or out. Given that federal income taxes are used to pay for the program, the only difference is whether or not taxpayers in a given state see anything in return for their tax investment. By this measure, Tennessee ranks 43rd in the amount of funding taxpayers will sacrifice for the Medicaid expansion, according to a report from WalletHub. WalletHub, a financial social network, compiled a report that relied on 11 metrics to gauge the impact of the Affordable Care Act on consumers and each state’s budget.
Carmen Maymi could barely speak early Monday at the 1st Lt. William Eric Emmert National Guard Armory in Murfreesboro. Her 19-year-old son, Jorge Vega, was preparing to leave for his first deployment to Afghanistan with the 269th Military Police Company. There was one thing she could say — a mantra for the hopeful mother: “I’ll pray for him every day.” She repeated the words over and over as her family huddled around their young loved one. “I feel very proud, but I feel sad, too,” said Maymi, who is originally from Puerto Rico. “He’s going to be fighting for our country, and it makes me very proud that he’s taking this step.”
National health spending grew slowly for the fourth consecutive year, increasing 3.7 percent in 2012 to $2.8 trillion, the federal government said Monday. But officials disagreed over whether the Affordable Care Act or lingering effects of the recession were primarily responsible for the remarkable trend. As a share of the economy, health spending declined slightly, to 17.2 percent in 2012, from 17.3 percent in the prior year. For decades, health spending has grown faster than the economy, taking a bigger bite out of workers’ wages and the federal budget. Health spending averaged about $8,900 a person in 2012, according to the annual report issued Monday by the government.
After a four-year hiatus, Memphis has returned to the ranks of the top 10 “movie cities” in the U.S., according to MovieMaker Magazine. Memphis ranks No. 9 this year in the magazine’s annual survey of the 10 best cities for filmmakers. The magazine defines a “best” city as “an affordable, intellectually vibrant community” that supports filmmaking. In a gimmick to attract readers over a period of days, MovieMaker this year is counting down the locations showcased in its “Best Places to Live and Work as a Filmmaker” survey one day at a time. The roll call began Monday, with San Francisco at No. 10; Memphis is scheduled to be announced as No. 9 on Tuesday.
Three Shelby County suburban school boards signed six-figure contracts with their municipal school superintendents late Monday. The municipal school boards of Germantown, Arlington and Lakeland met separately and approved contracts with Jason Manuel, Tammy Mason and Dr. Ted Horrell, respectively. Germantown’s contract calls for an annual salary of $160,000 for Manuel. Arlington’s contract has an annual salary of $143,000 for Mason, and Lakeland’s contract has an annual salary of $132,600 for Horrell. Previously, Collierville signed a contract with John Aitken with an annual salary of $185,000.
A tip led to the discovery of an active one-pot methamphetamine lab Saturday night in the same home as a 5-year-old girl, Cocke County authorities said. “This was a smaller operation, and this guy is a habitual offender,” Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes said Monday. “He’s been arrested with lab components in his vehicle at least one other time in the past year.” Deputies went to the home at 135 Cheyenne Circle in Cosby around 11:45 p.m., Sgt. Chris Gregg wrote in a report. They found Aaron Michael Binkley, 37, who was wanted on a probation violation charge, and Tina Shelton, 39, inside. Deputies searched the home and found needles, a pipe and other drug paraphernalia, along with a baggie of what appeared to be meth and ingredients for making meth, Gregg wrote.
As if the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act, Tennessee’s refusal to establish its own health insurance exchange, and Gov. Bill Haslam’s refusal to expand the state’s Medicaid program (TennCare) weren’t enough, TennCare now has computer problems of its own. Now, TennCare applications only can be submitted by computer, and must come through the federal HealthCare.gov website. What a mess. None of this sneaked up on the powers that be in state government or at TennCare. The behind-the-scenes changes at TennCare have been in the works since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. A big part of those changes was to meet new federal Medicaid guidelines and streamline the application process.