This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Haslam Announces 7-Step Prescription Drug Plan (Associated Press/Schelzig)
Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Douglas Varney are unveiling a seven-step plan to fight prescription drug abuse in Tennessee. The state estimates that in the last year, nearly 221,000 Tennesseans have used prescription pain relievers for non-medical purposes, and that 69,000 of them are addicted to the drugs. Varney’s department worked with several other state agencies to come up with the multi-year plan to fight abuse and treat addiction in the state.
Tennessee’s multi-agency plan targets pill addiction ‘epidemic’ (TFP/Harrison, Sher)
Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday announced a seven-point, multi-agency plan to combat Tennesseeans’ “epidemic” abuse of prescription painkillers in a state that ranks No. 2 nationally for per-capita use of opioids. “Obviously it’s a serious problem in Tennessee when one out of every 20 adults has used prescription drugs that weren’t prescribed for them for medical reasons,” Haslam told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference designed to highlight the “Prescription for Success” initiative.
Gov. Haslam announces 7-step prescription drug plan (WATE-TV Knoxville)
Major changes are on the way to tackle the prescription drug abuse problem in Tennessee. Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Douglas Varney are unveiling a seven-step plan to fight prescription drug abuse in Tennessee. The state estimates 69,000 people in the state are addicted to prescription drugs, and nearly 221,000 Tennesseans have used prescription pain relievers for non-medical purposes.. The governor says prescription drug abuse is a widespread problem throughout Tennessee.
Governor Haslam Announces 7-Step Prescription Drug Plan (WTVF-TV Nashville)
Governor Bill Haslam and Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Douglas Varney unveiled a seven-step plan to fight prescription drug abuse in Tennessee. The state estimates that in the last year, nearly 221,000 Tennesseans have used prescription pain relievers for non-medical purposes, and that 69,000 of them are addicted to the drugs. Varney’s department worked with several other state agencies to come up with the multi-year plan called “Prescription for Success” to fight abuse and treat addiction in the state.
Governor rolls out plan to tackle prescription pill problem (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
Prescription pills have replaced alcohol as the number one most abused substance in state funded treatment facilities, Governor Bill Haslam told a crowd at the Capitol Tuesday. From crime, to health, to economic development, Haslam said it seems nearly every state department feels the impact of prescription pill abuse. The state has been working to tackle the problem for several years now and have seen some success with the Prescription Safety Act of 2012. It mandates doctors to check the Controlled Substance Database before prescribing pain relievers, also known as opioids.
Governor lays out plan for ‘epidemic’ of prescription drug abuse (WCYB-TV J. City)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is prescribing a plan to stop what he calls an epidemic of prescription drug abuse. t’s a problem that affects more than 200,000 people in the Volunteer State alone. According to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, it’s a major problem. About 5 percent of the nearly half-million people living in Tennessee have used pain relievers for non-medical purposes — that’s close to a quarter-million people. According to that study, about 69,000 of them are addicted to the opioids Governor Haslam layed out a plan at a press conference Tuesday called “Prescription for Success.”
Haslam new strategic initiative to tackle prescription drug epidemic (Biz Clarksville)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was joined by several other state officials on June 3 to announce “Prescription for Success,” the state’s plan to prevent and treat prescription drug abuse in Tennessee. Among those with the governor were Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) Commissioner E. Douglas Varney and others. Prescription drug abuse is a pervasive, multi-dimensional issue impacting Tennessee individuals, families, and communities. Of the 4,850,000 adults in Tennessee, it is estimated that nearly 5 percent (about 221,000) have used pain relievers, also known as prescription opioids, in the past year for non-medical purposes.
Tennessee launches effort to reduce prescription drug abuse (CA/Locker)
Gov. Bill Haslam and state health and law-enforcement agencies launched an effort Tuesday to prevent and treat prescription drug abuse in Tennessee. The state estimates that about 221,000 adult Tennesseans — nearly 5 percent of the state’s adults — have used prescription pain relievers known as prescription opioids in the past year for non-medical purposes. Of those, an estimated 69,100 are addicted to the drugs and require treatment for prescription opioid abuse. “Tennessee has a serious problem with prescription drug abuse, and it demands coordinated solutions,” the governor said in a news conference at the State Capitol to launch “Prescription for Success,” which he described as a comprehensive multi-year strategic plan involving several state agencies to reduce the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.
Tennessee Officials Crack Down On Prescription Drug Abuse (WTVC-TV Chatt.)
Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Douglas Varney are unveiling a plan to fight prescription drug abuse in Tennessee. The state estimates that in the last year nearly 221,000 of Tennesseans have used prescription pain relievers for non-medical purposes, and that 69,000 of them are addicted to the drugs. Varney’s department worked with several other state agencies to come up with the multi-year plan fight abuse and treat addiction in the state.
Statewide Plan To Target Prescription Drug Abuse Focuses On Treatment (WPLN)
Gov. Bill Haslam says Tennessee’s prescription drug abuse problem has reached epidemic proportions. He says doctors are overprescribing, but most abusers are getting painkillers for free from friends or relatives. “Obviously it’s a serious problem in Tennessee when one out of every 20 adults has used prescription drugs that weren’t prescribed for them for medical reasons,” Haslam says. The governor on Tuesday announced a plan to target over-prescribers and get abusers treatment.
Numbers show how bad state’s pill popping is (Tennessean/Wilemon)
In a state where one out of every 20 people pops a pain pill for recreational use, the consequences are deadly. Tennessee drug overdose deaths jumped 220 percent from 1999 to 2012, and babies born addicted rose tenfold over the past decade. Those are just a few of the statistics Gov. Bill Haslam and top cabinet officials listed Tuesday as they announced a more intense effort among state agencies to combat prescription drug abuse. The plan builds upon existing initiatives. “A complex problem demands coordinated solutions, and we have seven very specific goals,” Haslam said, listing them.
Tennessee DCS ‘back on track,’ court monitors say (Tennessean/Gonzalez)
Tennessee’s child welfare system rebounded under new leadership in the past year — although challenges remain — experts say in a new 505-page report. New top leaders at the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services get credit for putting the state’s foster care system “back on track.” The praise appears in the annual report by a team of monitors put together under a federal court order. Since a lawsuit in 2000, the state agency has had to reform how it protects vulnerable children — changes that ground almost to a halt in 2011 and 2012 before the improvements detailed in the new paper.
Haslam urges GOP to look at income inequality (Tennessean/Sisk)
Gov. Bill Haslam urged Republicans to take seriously the growing problem of income inequality, in one of his first public appearances since launching his campaign for a second term. Haslam said at the Davidson County Republican Party’s First Tuesday luncheon in downtown Nashville that Republicans should not deny evidence that wealth is being spread unevenly or write off such concerns as Democratic propaganda. The governor, whose family fortune is estimated to exceed $1 billion, said income inequality can be addressed best by improving the education system.
Gov. Haslam signs law named after Blount County teen killed in crash (WATE-TV)
Nearly two years after a Blount County teen’s death, a bill bearing her name is now law. Gov. Bill Haslam Tuesday signed the measure dubbed “Amelia’s Law” for Amelia Keown, 16, who was killed in an August 2012 crash on Highway 411. The other driver who was also killed, John Perkins, had drugs in his system at the time. Perkins had been let out of prison early after serving four years of a 12 year sentence. Since the tragedy Amelia’s family has been urging lawmakers to tighten up the parole rules for convicted felons. Amelia Koewn’s family members say Tuesday’s ceremony was bittersweet.
Gov. Haslam signs ‘Noah and Nate’ bill into law (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill Tuesday afternoon named after two East Tennessee boys that increases the safety standards at marinas. Noah Dean Winstead, 10, and Nate Lynam, 11, died after they were electrocuted in 2012 while swimming at a marina in Cherokee Lake on the 4th of July. The bill named after the two best friends requires marinas to install safety breakers that would automatically shut off the main power source if too much electricity is detected in the water.
Bills inspired by Christian, Newsom signed into law (WBIR-TV Knoxville)
Gov. Bill Haslam signed two bills into law Tuesday afternoon that honor the legacies of a Knox County couple who were brutally murdered seven years ago. The families of Chris Newsom and Channon Christian worked with lawmakers to create the legislation aimed at making changes to the justice system. State lawmakers passed both the Chris Newsom Act and the Channon Christian Act during the recent legislative session. The Chris Newsom Act will do away with the state’s 13th juror rule, which requires a judge to validate a jury verdict by signing a document.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam Signs Healthy Workplace Act (Clarksville Online)
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam joined State Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) for a ceremonial bill signing of HB1981, the “Healthy Workplace Act”. The new law will require the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) to create a model policy that state and local government employers can follow that will reduce instances of workplace bullying – which will both protect employees from harassment and protect employers from future litigation.
Crime at Tennessee schools continues decline, TBI says (Tennessean/Brown, Faris)
Crime fell at Tennessee schools last year for at least the sixth year in a row, according to a report released Tuesday. In the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s yearly school crime report, elementary, middle and high schools saw crime drop across the board by 11.5 percent. TBI does not look into the reasons behind the numbers but only compiles the numbers of school crimes from local law enforcement, said TBI spokesman Josh Devine. The decline in crime at Metro schools in recent years could be attributed to the system focusing more on students than just education, said Joe Bass, a spokesman for Metro Nashville public schools.
Domestic violence in Tennessee drops 5.7 percent (Tennessean/Haas, Tamburin)
Tennessee has made more progress in its effort to shed its image as one of the worst states in the nation for domestic violence. A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report released Tuesday showed domestic violence reported to police across the state dropped in 2013 for the fourth consecutive year, this time by 5.7 percent. Statewide, nearly every category of crime — including murders and aggravated assaults — decreased in 2013, and 65 out of 95 counties saw domestic violence cases drop as well. Domestic violence in general has fallen sharply across the nation since 1994, but Tennessee has remained near the top in the nation for the rate at which women have been killed by men.
TBI report: Crime on Knox school grounds has doubled (News-Sentinel/Satterfield)
Reports of crime on the grounds of Knox County’s public schools more than doubled last year, according to an analysis by the News Sentinel. The number of crimes committed on school grounds jumped from 142 in 2012 to 292 last year. That bucks a trend statewide in which overall school crime fell 11.5 percent — from 11,012 total offenses reported in 2012 to 9,741 last year, according to a report released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday. Across the state, reported crime on school grounds dropped in nearly every major category. In Knox County, school crime increased across the board, the News Sentinel analysis showed.
TBI report: crimes in Tennessee schools dropped 11.5% in 2013 (WATE-TV Knox)
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released its annual “School Crime Report” Tuesday, finding that the number of overall crimes occurring at schools decreased 11.5 percent from 2012 to 2013. The study compiles crime data involving schools, as submitted by the state’s law enforcement agencies to the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System. Among other statistics revealed by the survey, simple assault was the most frequently reported offense, with 3,496, or 35.9 percent, reported in 2013.
Jackson State Community College holds ceremonial groundbreaking (J. Sun)
Jackson State Community College broke ground for a new nursing building Tuesday morning, and Jackson State and West Tennessee Healthcare officials were on site shoveling. Jackson State President Bruce Blanding said the nursing building, which is expected to be finished next year, is the first installment of a new medical-focused center at the community college. “By next summer we’ll have a new building built,” Blanding said. “This is the first of two buildings we’re going to build — the nursing building and then immediately following, another year out, we’re going to do an Allied Health building that will house all of our health programs.”
Black dentists complain over TennCare removal (Tennessean/Sisk)
Black dentists from across Tennessee told a group of lawmakers Tuesday that they had been treated unfairly by the company that administers the state’s contract to provide dental services to the poor. Several dentists said they and their colleagues had been purged from the list of providers approved to treat patients through TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program, shortly after a new contract was awarded last year to DentaQuest, a Boston-based provider. They and representatives for the National Dental Association, a trade group for black dentists, said dentists never were offered an explanation for why they were removed or an opportunity to appeal the decisions.
7 Apply to Fill Court of Criminal Appeals Vacancy (Associated Press)
Seven candidates have applied to fill a vacancy on the state Court of Criminal Appeals created by Gov. Bill Haslam’s appointment of Judge Jeffrey Bivins to the state Supreme Court. The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments will chose three finalists for Haslam to choose from. The applicants are Assistant District Attorney Leslie Anne Collum of Rutherford County, Circuit Judge Timothy Lee Easter of Williamson County, Circuit Judge Robert Lee Holloway Jr. of Maury County, District Public Defender Eric Nell of Montgomery County, Circuit Judge and Chancellor Larry B. Stanley Jr. of Warren County, Attorney Russell Fletcher Thomas of Davidson County and Circuit Judge Larry J. Wallace of Stewart County.
AG: Applications for court clerk are open records (Associated Press)
Attorney General Bob Cooper says in a legal opinion that applications for chancery court clerk are covered by Tennessee’s open records laws. Cooper said in the opinion that the courts also have no jurisdiction to seal application documents for the position. The attorney general cited a legal precedent set by a 2002 state Court of Appeals ruling overturning the city of Lebanon’s sealing of a settlement with a woman whose husband was shot to death when police officers stormed the wrong house in a drug raid.
Petitions Seek Supermarket Wine Sales in East Tennessee (Associated Press)
An East Tennessee election official says petitions seeking a local vote on supermarket wine sales have begun circulating. Sullivan County Administrator of Elections Jason Booher told the Bristol Herald Courier that petitioners have until Aug. 21 to get enough signatures in Bristol and Kingsport. He says 603 valid signatures are needed in Bristol while Kingsport needs 1,220. That’s 10 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election. Wine sales are currently limited to state-approved liquor stores, but lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year that would allow supermarket sales if voters in a municipality approve a ballot measure.
Grocery stores look to become one-stop shop for wining, dining (J. City Press)
Petitions are already circulating in Northeast Tennessee to trigger referendum votes to allow wine in food stores, but the campaign is set to begin in earnest next week. Representatives of both regional grocery store chain Food City and Red White and Food, an organization that helped guide the law through the state legislature, on Tuesday confirmed a kickoff event scheduled for Monday at the Food City store on Eastman Road in Kingsport to announce the local petition drive. According to the law, approved this session by lawmakers and signed in March by Gov. Bill Haslam, petitions must be submitted to county election commissions bearing signatures totaling at least 10 percent of the number of voters in each municipality in the most recent gubernatorial election by Aug. 21 for the referendum to be on each municipality’s ballot in November.
Bradley Co. OKs state’s first e-cigarette ban in government buildings (TFP/Leach)
Where there’s vapor, there might as well be smoke, the Bradley County Commission decided. A late-night Monday ban on the use of electronic cigarettes and other vapor products within all buildings owned or leased by Bradley County passed that panel in a 9-1 vote. Bradley is the first municipality in Tennessee to pass such a law, though East Ridge is considering doing the same. “My resolution was not meant to gun for [product users], it was meant to gun for what we cannot see in the vapor products,” sponsor Charlotte Peak-Jones said, citing relatives she said experimented with using substances other than vapor “juice” in the devices.
Fincher meets with small business leaders to discuss impact of ACA (J. Sun)
U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump, met with members of the National Federation of Independent Business in Jackson on Tuesday to discuss his bill that would require research into the impact of the Affordable Care Act on small businesses. The “Certify It Act” would require the comptroller general and the actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to conduct a five-year study, looking at jobs, hours and wages lost due to the ACA. Introduced May 22, the bill is a response to an IRS rule that small businesses under the mandate to provide health insurance must certify that they have not reduced workers’ hours or employment because of the health care law.
Five States’ Health-Care Exchanges See Costly Fixes (Wall Street Journal)
Five states that launched health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act expect to spend as much as $240 million to fix their sites or switch to the federal marketplace, a Wall Street Journal analysis shows. Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada and Oregon estimate the money will be needed to fix problems with troubled marketplaces or to join the federal exchange before the next enrollment period in November, according to an analysis of data provided by the state exchanges. Funds may come from the states, remaining federal grants and new federal requests.
TVA should not be sold, study concludes (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Flessner)
Selling TVA wouldn’t do much, if anything, to limit the federal debt, but it could push electric rates higher in the Tennessee Valley, according to an outside financial review of the America’s biggest government utility. A new study released today by financial analysts at Lazard Freres & Co., LLC, recommends against trying to sell TVA. In a 139-page report given to White House budget planners, Lazard says TVA is improving its fiscal health and won’t need to boost borrowings above the Congressionally imposed limit. Lazard has suggested other federal agencies be sold or privatized in the past.
Memphis Health Center snags $3.2 million in federal funding (M. Biz Journal)
Congressman Steve Cohen today said the Memphis Health Center, which provides health care services to uninsured and lower-income patients in the Mid-South, was getting $3,260,950 in federal funding. The grant funding comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration “The Memphis Health Center provides incredibly important health services and high-quality, affordable care to citizens throughout the Ninth District,” Cohen said in a statement. “I am pleased to announce this significant investment of funding which will help the Memphis Health Center achieve the goals of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and reduce health inequalities and disparities in Shelby County.”
VW labor official vows to back UAW effort in Tennessee (Detroit Free-Press)
Frank Patta, general secretary of Volkswagen’s Global Group Works Council, vowed to help the UAW continue to organize workers at the automaker’s plant in Chattanooga. The UAW lost an election last February by 44 votes after top Tennessee politicians – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Senator Bob Corker – and Republican interest groups helped to sway some workers against the union. The loss stunned the UAW because Volkswagen’s management agreed to be neutral in the election and even seemed to favor UAW representation. German labor union officials had been working hand-in-hand for about four years before Volkswagen agreed to the election.
Tenn’s STEM Fellows program seeks to bridge business, education (TFP/Hardy)
Everyone loves to complain about the state of public education. But not everyone is willing to pitch in and do something about it. The region’s STEM work — short for science, technology, engineering and math — is one effort trying to bridge that divide. The Southeast Tennessee STEM Initiative is seeking businesses with a desire to improve the quality of public education, and thus the quality of the workforce. Part of its one-year STEM Teaching Fellows program pairs businesses and area teachers together to learn from each other. The STEM work here was kickstarted by the 2012 opening of STEM School Chattanooga, a Hamilton County public school that opened with support from businesses and nonprofits on the campus of Chattanooga State Community College.
Editorial: Plan to help prescription drug addicts an uphill battle (Jackson Sun)
On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Haslam announced a new effort to address Tennessee’s epidemic of prescription drug abuse. The multifaceted approach he announced, along with Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Douglas Varney, appears to make sense. But key questions remain. As usual, the issue of cost must be dealt with. There also is concern that those who find it harder, perhaps impossible, to get prescription drugs to feed their addictions could turn to other illegal substances, such as meth and the latest national scourge, heroin. Estimates for last year are that about 221,000 Tennesseans used prescription pain relievers for non-medical purposes.
Editorial: TCAP delay probably was an error, not a plot (Tennessean)
Woe to Kevin Huffman for stumbling in an election year. The state education commissioner has never been a crowd pleaser. Just last year, he received a letter from 60 school superintendents throughout the state criticizing his attitude toward teachers’ and principals’ feedback over evaluations and other reforms. Still, Tennessee’s glowing performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress last year seemed to have calmed the waters somewhat for Huffman and his boss, Gov. Bill Haslam. Last month, the state Education Department stirred them up again, with a last-minute delay in the release of Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program scores, throwing a big wrench in districts’ end-of-year report cards for kids in grades 3-8.