This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Just three days after local state legislators introduced their plan to require prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, Gov. Bill Haslam announced his alternate strategy to limit access to the decongestant used in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine. Haslam announced the Tennessee Anti-Meth Production Act Thursday afternoon at the state Capitol. It calls for a greater restriction to the quanity of pseudoephedrine that may be purchased, rather than requiring Tennesseans get a doctor’s prescription for the pills. “Meth production is dangerous, threatens the safety of Tennesseans and destroys families,” Haslam said.
Higher education officials engaged state legislators at Cleveland State Community College on Friday to discuss concerns about recognition, funding and increasing the number of Tennesseans with college degrees and certifications. During the meeting, Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan asked state officials — Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland — to support a $29 million Tennessee Higher Education Commission funding proposal if it should become part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget proposal. Of the proposed $29 million, $120,000 is earmarked for Cleveland State Community College, Morgan said.
The Tennessee Supreme Court on Friday temporarily suspended the law license of Knoxville attorney Billy J. Reed, officials said. The court temporarily suspended Reed upon finding that he failed to respond to the court’s Board of Professional Responsibility regarding a complaint of misconduct, according to a news release from the board. Court rules provide for the immediate summary suspension of an attorney’s license to practice law in cases of an attorney’s failure to respond to the board regarding a misconduct complaint, officials said.
A panel that helps decide whether appeals court judges can keep their jobs has voted to give 22 members of the state appeals courts and Supreme Court positive recommendations. That means they will stand for simple yes-no retention votes in the August election. The Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission met on Friday despite a court ruling earlier this week that the panel is invalid because it does not have enough female members. Two appeals court judges who initially had received negative evaluations went before the panel on Friday to make a case for why they should stay on the bench.
All 11 members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation have signed a letter seeking $80 million for financially struggling hospitals in the state. They are asking that TennCare money lost from one federal grant program be replaced through another program, an action that requires a waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In the letter to Marilyn Tavenner, who heads the federal agency, the delegation makes the case that Tennessee is treated differently from other states because of another waiver – one that was granted back in 1994 when the state transformed its Medicaid program into TennCare.
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee accounted for an estimated 86 percent of the new health plans purchased last year in Tennessee through the health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. The Chattanooga-based insurer said today it attracted more than 31,000 of the 36,000 Tennesseans who enrolled by the end of December. Of the total number of BlueCross enrollees, the biggest share was in the Nashville and Knoxville areas. The estimated enrollment figures represent the period of Oct. 1 through Dec. 28 dates for which the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reported that 36,250 Tennesseans had signed up for a marketplace plan.
Early signals suggest the majority of the 2.2 million people who sought to enroll in private insurance through new marketplaces through Dec. 28 were previously covered elsewhere, raising questions about how swiftly this part of the health overhaul will be able to make a significant dent in the number of uninsured. Insurers, brokers and consultants estimate at least two-thirds of those consumers previously bought their own coverage or were enrolled in employer-backed plans. The data, based on surveys of enrollees, are preliminary. But insurers say the tally of newly insured consumers is falling short of their expectations, a worrying trend for an industry looking to the law to expand the ranks of its customers.
Already the frontrunner to assemble a new sport utility vehicle, Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant also could see even more product such as the Jetta compact car, according to a report Friday. “Jetta is one of their volume sellers here,” said Karl Bauer, senior industry analyst for Kelley Blue Book. Automotive magazine said VW officials are looking at producing its next Jetta in Chattanooga. The magazine website added that the city is a candidate for a possible Jetta wagon with a body cladding and a raised stance for an Audi all-road rugged look. In addition, it said officials are eyeing production of its next generation compact Tiguan sport utility vehicle either in Chattanooga or in VW’s Puebla, Mexico, factory, where the Jetta is now produced.
Mayor Karl Dean has committed $6 million in Metro funds for new school technology, making Nashville’s public school district “tech-ready” for testing connected to new Common Core academic standards and ending a disagreement with the school district on the issue. Director of Schools Jesse Register and the school board had hoped to tap some $14.8 million in school reserves, nearly half of which would be used for computers needed for the state-mandated test called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The remaining chunk was designated for other needs.
In a strongly worded decision, a state judge on Friday struck down Pennsylvania’s 2012 law requiring voters to produce a state-approved photo ID at the polls, setting up a potential Supreme Court confrontation that could have implications for other such laws across the country. The judge, Bernard L. McGinley of Commonwealth Court, ruled that the law hampered the ability of hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians to cast their ballots, with the burden falling most heavily on elderly, disabled and low-income residents, and that the state’s reason for the law — that it was needed to combat voter fraud — was not supported by the facts.
States in 2013 awarded tax breaks to businesses, touted worker-training programs and even poached jobs from each other to boost their economies and create work for the nearly 12 million Americans still unemployed. Oregon, for example, inked a 30-year tax deal to keep Nike from relocating. Wisconsin created a new “work-share” program that allows employers to cut workers’ hours rather than give them pink slips. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry launched a high-profile campaign to entice employers in Illinois and California to move to the Lone Star State. Four years after the recession officially ended, most states have bounced back fiscally, but their economies still aren’t generating enough jobs for the millions of people who are still out of work or under-employed.