This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois and Republican Gov. Bill Haslam disagreed — in a generally polite manner — over increasing the minimum wage, Medicaid expansion and unions in a joint appearance on a nationally televised PBS Newshour segment. Haslam stopped short of declaring outright opposition to an increase in the minimum wage at either the state or federal level, but cited a Congressional Budget Office report that “if you do that (nationally), you’re going to lose 500,000 jobs” while observing, “I don’t think there’s a big movement to change the minimum wage in Tennessee.” He conceded it might make “some” difference in “the income inequality issue,” but said other issues — especially education — are more important.
Darin Gordon seemed exasperated. The director of TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program, last week agreed to brief House Democrats in the ornate legislative lounge at the Capitol. Gordon has been Tennessee’s point man with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since Gov. Phil Bredesen was in office, and Democrats were eager to pin him down on how — or even if — Gov. Bill Haslam plans to expand TennCare. The questions were often pointed, the conversation often went in circles, and Gordon was often defensive. “I wish I could convey all the time and energy we’re spending in trying to figure this out,” Gordon said wearily.
Human trafficking was brought to the forefront in Rutherford County in 2012 when a potential missing person report turned up an alleged prostitution ring with ties to Murfreesboro and Memphis. The family of Ivy Scales, who is mentally challenged, told local police she was forced into sex slavery after she turned up missing in August 2012. Audry Scales filed a missing person report Aug. 18, 2012, but later found out her daughter had been arrested in Memphis for prostitution, she said. Scales’ story is one of many in Tennessee, according to a report released last week by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Out-of-state companies that bring in millions in revenue by managing charter schools have their eyes set on Tennessee, an epicenter of education reform. But they need a major change in state law to enter. It would mean convincing the legislature in a state whose most recent foray into for-profit education, a struggling virtual school, has turned off some lawmakers to the idea. After steadily loosening the state law over publicly financed, privately operated charter schools in recent years, the Tennessee General Assembly is weighing another big step: allowing a charter school’s board of directors to hire a for-profit entity to run it.
With possibly hundreds of thousands of rape kits untested across the country, a number of states are proposing legislation to address backlogs that in at least one case dates back nearly three decades. In Memphis alone, there are more than 12,000 untested rape kits going back to the 1980s, according to the New York-based Rape Kit Action Project, which has been tracking the backlogs nationwide. In the entire state of Texas, there are about 16,000 untested kits collecting dust in police evidence rooms. Tennessee is among at least 17 states with proposals that range from requiring law enforcement agencies to inventory their rape kits to analyzing them in a certain amount of time.
While supporters say they are hopeful for the passage of a medical marijuana bill in the Tennessee legislature this year, the reality is that it may be a long time coming. Among supporters, the issue is muddled with differing agendas, from advocates of strictly medical uses to advocates of wholesale legalization who see medical applications as a first step. hen there is the widely held view of marijuana as a strictly recreational drug with little or no accepted medical applications, as well as its reputation as a “gateway” drug that facilitates further and more dangerous drug use and abuse.
If a Tennessee state legislator has his way, you could walk from the Burger Bar to Macado’s in downtown Bristol and gain an hour. Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, wants to eliminate standard time in Tennessee. So from the middle of November until early March, it would be 1 p.m. in Virginia and 2 p.m. in Tennessee. “It would be awful,” Burger Bar owner Joe Deel said. “It would be confusing for my customers as well as my employees.” Tennessee and 47 other states observe daylight saving time when clocks are moved ahead an hour — often known as springing forward.
Tennessee Republicans in the U.S. House continued to display solidly conservative voting patterns in 2013, new studies show. But in the Senate, Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker showed more of a willingness to buck their party. The trends show up in recently released reviews of last year’s congressional votes by CQ Roll Call and National Journal, two Washington public policy publications. Overall, Tennessee had the 12th most conservative congressional delegation among the 50 states, according to National Journal. Among the members of the delegation, Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper, voted conservative 94.2 percent of the time, National Journal found.
People buying coverage through the new health care exchanges in East Tennessee are paying nearly a third less than the national average and less than half what’s being charged in the nation’s most expensive markets, including South Georgia. A new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation ranked Chattanooga and Knoxville among the 10 cheapest markets to purchase individual plans offered through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. A 40-year-old buying the most popular “silver” plan offered through BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee can get it for $181 a month, $78 a month less than the U.S. median price for such coverage. Chattanooga’s price is $280 a month cheaper than the lowest-cost plans available in South Georgia.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is turning to soul music, a network of churches and staff at local emergency rooms to urge more African-Americans to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. March 31 is the last day of open enrollment for getting Obamacare for 2014. Wharton, speaking on a conference call arranged by the White House, said the city is making a coordinated final push to get people to enroll in a health plan before the deadline. Pastors are talking to their congregations, and emergency room workers are telling uninsured patients about new insurance options.
The explosive politics of health care have divided the nation, but America’s governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, suggest that President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul is here to stay. While governors from Connecticut to Louisiana sparred Sunday over how best to improve the nation’s economy, governors of both parties shared a far more pragmatic outlook on the controversial program known as “Obamacare” as millions of their constituents begin to be covered. “We’re just trying to make the best of a bad situation,” said Republican Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, who called the health care law “unaffordable and unsustainable” yet something he has to implement by law.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley appears tempted to run for president in 2016. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said emphatically he is not. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he hasn’t made up his mind, while Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said he’d like to see someone else jump in the race: Hillary Clinton. The nation’s governors descended on Washington, D.C., over the weekend for an annual conference, creating a target-rich environment for Sunday TV talk-show hosts looking to size up the 2016 presidential field. Typically, candidates for the nation’s highest office like to announce their intentions on their own terms and on their own timetable. But that didn’t stop the show hosts from seeing if they could tease out some early answers.
The legislative assault against Tennessee’s Common Core state standards initiative is scheduled to begin in earnest this week when lawmakers begin committee hearings on several bills aimed at removing Tennessee from Common Core or delaying or modifying its implementation. A lot of time and financial resources already have been invested in training some 30,000 teachers to begin teaching the new curriculum next year, which aims to make sure students are mastering proficiency in core subjects under the same standards, whether they attend public schools in Memphis or in Boston. Common Core seems like the most logical way to make sure Tennessee students are competitive with students across the country and, by extension, students around the word.
The ability to hire qualified and prepared workers has a tremendous impact on the ultimate success of any business. The converse is true, as well. When a business hires a person who doesn’t have the necessary skills for the job, that hire invariably results in significant costs to the business in terms of turnover, remedial training and reduced efficiency. I learned two surprising things about hiring during my 17 years in retail, 11 of those at Dollar General Corp. The first is that all retail employees, even the ones in entry-level positions, must be proficient in the basics of math and literacy and be able to process and effectively use information and data as they go about their work.