This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Program assisting former foster kids garners praise (Tennessean/Gonzalez)
A Tennessee effort to help former foster kids transition smoothly into independent adult lives has gained praise from a national research group. Early study results cast a positive light on the work being done by Memphis-based Youth Villages, the state’s biggest provider of services to “aged-out” former foster children, who experience high rates of unemployment, homelessness and incarceration. The nonprofit and the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services already have been pegged as national leaders for expanding aged-out services. But the new research — still ongoing — could validate the leap the state took last year.
Improved newborn screening steps on the way in Tennessee (TFP/Harrison)
Tennessee health officials are moving to bring more safeguards and scrutiny to the process of newborn screenings. Extended lab hours, a contract with a courier service and a new public reporting system are all new features the Tennessee Department of Health hopes to implement in coming weeks to better ensure that the newborn tests are received and processed promptly. “There’s always room for improvement, and we’re striving to give our hospitals timely information so that if they do see problems they can address this,” said Dr. Richard Steece, director of the Tennessee Department of Health’s Division of Laboratory Services.
Governors meeting offers chance to work, schmooze (Tennessean/Sisk)
There will be a closed-door tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame and private concerts by Trace Adkins, Vince Gill and Amy Grant. Soirees are planned at the Tennessee governor’s mansion and the Hermitage. With all of that, can the governors actually get any work done? The National Governors Association returns to Nashville for the first time in three decades, bringing to town a host of national figures, including Vice President Joe Biden, to schmooze and press the flesh. But the NGA summer meeting that starts Thursday and runs through Sunday could turn out to be more than well-heeled entertainment. The meeting also might provide the quiet spark to some of the debates that will rock state capitals in future years.
TCAP waivers, delay did not violate law, AG says (Tennessean/Garrison)
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman acted lawfully when he let school districts not apply end-of-year test scores to students’ final grades, according to the state attorney general’s office. In an opinion released Wednesday, Attorney General Robert Cooper also contends the Tennessee Department of Education’s delay in releasing Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program results to schools did not break any law. Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, had asked for Cooper’s opinion after the department of education in May delayed the release of preliminary TCAP scores to local districts by three days.
DUI law to curb addiction takes effect (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Cobb)
It won’t take a DUI to be treated like a DUI offender in Tennessee. A new law, inspired by tragedy, will reduce the possibility of criminal substance abusers endangering the public, help Tennesseans beat addiction and ease the burden on overcrowded jails, supporters say. The legislation made it through the Tennessee General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam in March. It became law July 1.House bill 1759 or “Amelia’s Law,” gives judges the option of slapping a transdermal substance monitoring device onto any offender if the local district attorney says alcohol or drugs contributed to their unlawful conduct.
Abortion law leads off Tenn. amendment proposals (Johnson City Press)
Four amendments to the Tennessee Constitution will be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, including a proposed change that puts elected officials in the driver’s seat when it comes to abortion rights. “Amendment One” would add a completely new section to Article 1, inserting constitutional language empowering the legislature to enact, amend or repeal state statutes regarding abortion, including pregnancies resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to protect the mother’s mortality. The measure would prohibit state funding for abortions.
Looney takes on education commissioner, policy (Tennessean/Hall)
There’s some of that Georgia kid so tough he fled an abusive home to join the Marines, so determined he parlayed a GED into an education doctorate, still inside the typically soft-spoken Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney. And that kid’s especially apparent when Looney takes on a fight. For two years, one of his most frequent opponents has been Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman — the proponent of some education policies Looney criticizes openly. It’s not unusual for Looney to deliver his own blow-by-blow analysis in the form of emails to teachers or open letters to the district and Huffman himself, with the public in front-row seats.
Alexander launches campaign ad about his opposition to Obamacare (CA/Locker))
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is putting out a new TV campaign ad Sunday featuring him and President Obama arguing over whether health insurance premiums would increase under the Affordable Care Act. The 30-second spot to be run statewide is aimed at underscoring Alexander’s opposition to “Obamacare” from the start, against charges by his Republican primary opponents that he’s a “career politician” who works with Democrats rather than confronting them. The ad focuses on a brief exchange between Alexander and Obama during a bipartisan, daylong White House meeting on health reform of the President, key members of his Cabinet and congressional leaders on Feb. 25, 2010.
All three top GOP Senate candidates now on TV (Commercial Appeal/Locker)
State Rep. Joe Carr of Murfreesboro and Memphis radiologist George Flinn are running their first TV ads of their Republican campaigns for the U.S. Senate. Both are challenging Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee. Carr’s ad opens with stark scenes of the U.S.-Mexico border and focuses on Alexander’s vote last year for an immigration reform bill that Carr says was a vote for amnesty for illegal immigrants. “There’s a crisis in America. Thousands of illegal aliens are overrunning our border,” Carr says in the ad. “President Obama created this crisis only after Lamar Alexander voted for amnesty. He is responsible.” Alexander was one of 14 Republicans who voted for an immigration overhaul bill that won Senate approval in June 2013, on a 68-32 vote.
Couple married 33 years separate so wife can keep insurance (Tenn/Wilemon)
The day Linda Drain put baby’s breath in her hair and said “I do,” she had no idea that government policies would tear her apart from her husband. But 33 years later, she and her husband, Larry Drain, separated so she could keep her health insurance. Six months into the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the Drains are among 162,000 Tennesseans who got caught in a coverage gap. Their household income is too little to qualify for a government subsidy to buy health insurance, and they live in a state not expanding Medicaid.
Editorial: Failure to expand TennCare taking toll on whole state (News-Sentinel)
Thousands of Tennesseans would have better access to health care and the state’s economy would receive a boost if lawmakers would accept the federal government’s offer to underwrite an expansion of Medicaid. A report released last week by the White House quantified the benefits of expansion Tennessee is foregoing by not expanding its Medicaid program, which is administered as TennCare. Compiled by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the report offers more evidence that Gov. Bill Haslam and the Legislature’s Republican supermajority are doing their constituents no favors by not expanding Medicaid.
Guest columnists: Tennessee’s new business laws will hurt workers, citizens (CA)
For the past two years, with little oversight from the media or general public, Tennessee’s legislature and Gov. Bill Haslam have overseen a dramatic shift in the rights of workers in the state. Three major changes in employment laws went into effect Tuesday that dramatically alter workers’ rights in Tennessee and will harm the citizens, residents and taxpayers of our state. The first new law establishes a redesigned workers’ compensation system. As originally designed, the workers’ compensation system balanced the interests of employers and employees.
Lowe Finney: New laws leave no safe haven for gangs (Jackson Sun)
As I recently finished my late afternoon run on a beautiful day, I rounded a corner to see a number of Jackson Police Department cars drive not far from my home in the Lambuth neighborhood. One of the officers had stopped and, as I walked up, rolled down his window and politely told me that everything was OK and that they had “caught him.” For me, “him” was a gang member who was cornered near the hospital after evading police for some time. I admit my mixed emotions at seeing so many of Jackson’s finest in my neighborhood: I am always glad to see them even if I had rather not know why they were needed.
Tom Humphrey: Political contests become battles of multimillionaires (N-S)
Barring some really unusual circumstances, practical politics dictates that only multimillionaires willing to spend lots of their own money can get elected to statewide office in a contested Tennessee election, and 2014 is without any such circumstances. In the governor’s race, there’s only one multimillionaire running, Bill Haslam, so that outcome is a foregone conclusion. But in this year’s other statewide contested campaign, we find three multimillionaire candidates for the U.S. Senate — two Republicans and a Democrat — to create a more interesting situation. Non-millionaire Joe Carr had high hopes that an unusual situation would develop in the GOP Senate primary. Understandably so.