This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee health officials strengthen stance on e-cigarettes (TFP/Harrison)
In a sign that the state is hardening its stance on electronic cigarettes, health departments throughout Tennessee are putting up posters in their buildings warning about the potential harm of the devices. The notices caution users about e-cigs, the nicotine and other chemicals in them as well as exposure to vapor second-hand. State health officials issued their initial advisory on e-cigs in February. Since then, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed rules calling for regulation of electronic nicotine devices. “The additional independent research we’ve seen on electronic cigarettes has increased our concerns since we issued the initial advisory in February,” said Dr. John Dreyzehner, Tennessee Department of Health commissioner.
Tennessee second in tornado deaths nationwide (Associated Press/Borenstein)
Oklahoma and Kansas may have the reputation as tornado hot spots, but Florida, Tennessee and the rest of the Southeast are far more vulnerable to killer twisters, a new analysis shows. Tennessee is second in the country in deaths calculated for each mile a tornado races along the ground, behind Florida. Tennessee is followed by North Carolina, Ohio and Alabama, according to an analysis of the past three decades by the federal Southeast Regional Climate Center at the University of North Carolina. Florida is No. 1 in so many factors that make tornadoes more risky: mobile homes, the elderly and the poor, said center director Charles Konrad II, who headed the new work.
THDA attempts to build economy with home buys (Daily News Journal)
For every existing house that is bought, nearly $60,000 is added to the economy, according the National Association of Realtors. That money is created by the real estate transaction as well as the construction and furnishing of the home. These funds create jobs that, in turn, improve the economy, which is the main goal of the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, officials said. “The economy gets going when housing gets going,” said Ralph M. Perrey, executive director of the Tennessee Housing Development Agency. “We want to help get the economy going again.” To do that Perrey said he wants to get more first-time home buyers off the couch and into a home.
Immigrant Families Benefiting From New Tennessee Tuition Law: Maybe (WPLN)
Starting this fall, students with undocumented parents will be able to get in-state tuition at Tennessee universities and community colleges. The Republican legislature was commended for making overtures to the immigrant community. But the gesture might have been only symbolic. “It’s a start,” says State Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga. “You know, no, there won’t be right many at first. But it opens the door.” Gardenhire spearheaded the legislation that allows children born in the U.S. – meaning they’re citizens – to automatically qualify for in-state rates. The concern was that if their parents are undocumented, they may not have the ability to prove they’re Tennessee residents.
UTC’s Frist Hall to be torn down (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sher)
A nearly 65-year-old building donated to UTC in 1985 by hospital giant HCA and named by the university after company co-founder Thomas F. Frist Sr. is coming down. State Building Commission members approved the demolition of Frist Hall as part of an $800,000 parking improvement project. It’s partially aimed at addressing flooding issues at the site. “The project approved by the State Building Commission was for renovations to an existing parking lot” with 286 spaces, said Chuck Cantrell, associate vice chancellor for communications and marketing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Cantrell said the site, located between McCallie Avenue and Oak Street, “suffers from major flooding issues.
Amendments now online (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)
The four proposed Tennessee constitutional amendments that will be on the Nov. 4 ballot have been placed online by the Secretary of State’s office. The amendments appear on the website in the same order they will appear on the ballot. They cover abortion, taxes, lotteries and whether Supreme Court judges should be appointed or elected. “Now these amendments are readily accessible on our website to give people the opportunity to learn about them so they can make well-informed decisions at the ballot box,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. To see the amendments online, go to: www.tn.gov/sos/
Black sees increase in PAC campaign funding (Tennessean/Barton)
When Rep. Diane Black first won election to Congress as a tea party Republican in 2010, only 16.1 percent of her campaign funds came from special-interest political action committees. Four years later, as the Gallatin Republican seeks a third term, 67 percent of her money comes from PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks political dollars. Some say her growing dependence on PACs betrays the spirit that swept Black and dozens of other tea party Republicans into office in 2010. Through March 31, the most recent candidate reporting period, PACs had given her $529,735 out of $788,997 raised overall for her 2014 re-election.
Sen. Alexander lists big boost in asset values (Tennessean/Barton)
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander saw the value of his personal assets increase by at least several million dollars in 2013, according to a financial disclosure form released Friday. Alexander and his wife, Honey, listed 63 assets worth between $9.3 million and $37.13 million, compared to the 2012 range of $6.67 million to $19.16 million. Driving the increase was a big jump in the value of his stock in Custom Foods of Knoxville, which helps restaurants develop menu items. Alexander’s holdings in the company in 2012 were listed at between $1 million and $5 million. For 2013, they jumped to between $5 million and $25 million.
Roe, others fear time is running out to pass health care alternative (CA/Collins)
In a closed-door meeting, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe stood up and challenged House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to make good on his promise that Republicans would pass an alternative to President Barack Obama’s health care reforms before the end of the year. “It’s June, and we still haven’t done it,” Roe reminded his leader. “We need to be for something. You’ve got to tell the American people what you are for.” Roe’s plea for action just two weeks ago reflected a concern among some conservative House members that while Republican opposition to Obamacare is unanimous, the GOP has yet to rally around a plan to replace it.
Advances Made in Regulating Type 1 Diabetes (Wall Street Journal)
Medical researchers reported progress in developing software that potentially could better manage Type 1 diabetes through an automated insulin pump and glucose monitor, lowering patients’ risk of sudden death or long-term medical complications from the disease. In two small clinical studies presented at a meeting of the American Diabetes Association in San Francisco on Sunday, researchers said patients with Type 1 diabetes were able to better control their blood sugar when using an insulin-pump system controlled by an algorithm, or mathematical formula, which was embedded in a smartphone application, than when the patients determined the timing and dosage of injections themselves.
V.A. Punished Critics on Staff, Doctors Assert (New York Times)
Staff members at dozens of Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country have objected for years to falsified patient appointment schedules and other improper practices, only to be rebuffed, disciplined or even fired after speaking up, according to interviews with current and former staff members and internal documents. The growing V.A. scandal over long patient wait times and fake scheduling books is emboldening hundreds of employees to go to federal watchdogs, unions, lawmakers and outside whistle-blower groups to report continuing problems, officials for those various groups said.
Guest columnist: Abortions in Tennessee lack safeguards (Tennessean)
The debate regarding abortion has always been an emotional and highly charged discussion. The people of Tennessee are not served well, however, by opinion pieces such as “Abortion amendment bad news for women,” June 4. Nor are we served well by recent full-page advertisements that compared Amendment 1 supporters to the Taliban and wrongly implied that a state can ban the practice of abortion under Roe vs. Wade. So what would serve every Tennessean well? The truth. The fact that most people in Tennessee do not realize is this: 14 years ago, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood regarding the laws enacted by the duly elected legislators of Tennessee and claimed that the state constitution contained a “fundamental right to abortion.”
Guest columnist: Less structure benefits preschoolers (Commercial Appeal)
Children are born ready to learn, with a natural preference for new and novel experiences. Curiosity drives young children to learn about the world around them. This internal motivation makes learning its own reward. Young children get satisfaction from gaining new knowledge or skills; they don’t need the promise of external rewards. A child with a strong, innate motivation to learn is willing and eager to try new and challenging tasks. She takes pleasure in learning and exploring and shows persistence when she encounters difficulties. Early parenting can affect children’s persistence and willingness to try challenging activities.