This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Governors pow-wow ends with agreement on Internet tax (N-S/Humphrey)
The National Governors Association conference ended Sunday with a focus on collection of state taxes on Internet sales, a proposition favored by most governors nationwide, after participants agreed to avoid official engagement about Common Core education standards, an area of past gubernatorial agreement. The two Tennesseans most prominent in the three-day NGA conference — host Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a featured speaker this year who was NGA chairman 28 years ago — are both advocates of the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” pending legislation in Congress that would authorize states to collect sales tax on online sales. “To me, it’s states’ rights,” said Alexander in his speech to the NGA.
Governors Slam Inaction on Highway Funding (Wall Street Journal)
Governors from both parties voiced incredulity over an impasse in Washington that has jeopardized spending on roads and bridges, calling on lawmakers to come up with the sort of long-term solution that was commonplace in less partisan times. Some governors at their summer meeting here, both Democrats and Republicans, said Congress should consider increasing the gas tax to provide a more reliable revenue stream for the Highway Trust Fund. They also called for finding ways to ensure that electric and fuel-efficient vehicles help pay the costs of maintaining the nation’s roads.
Best Buy CEO asks governors for fairness in web taxes (Tennessean/Harper)
The leader of Best Buy called on government to level the playing field concerning online taxes at the closing session of the National Governors Association summer meeting in Nashville on Sunday. “I don’t think anyone believes the government should be picking the winners in this country,” said Hubert Joly, Best Buy’s president and chief executive officer. Joly said Best Buy collects sales tax for online sales, but retailers without a physical presence do not, making the marketplace unfair. He called on the governors to correct the situation by the end of this year. “I cannot fight with an 8 percent price disadvantage, so jobs are being lost every day,” he said.
Governors’ support on immigrant kids sought (Jackson Sun)
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell met privately with dozens of governors Sunday as the Obama administration tried to get support from the leaders of states that will host thousands of the Central American children who have crossed the Mexican border on their own since Oct. 1. Governors of both parties expressed concerns about the cost to states, including providing public education for the children, according to those who attended the meeting. Burwell left the meeting through a side door without talking to reporters. “Our citizens already feel burdened by all kinds of challenges. They don’t want to see another burden come into their state,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. .
Campaign funding: How Haslam is taking sides in 2014 races (N-S/Humphrey)
Gov. Bill Haslam for the first time is giving financial support to incumbent Republican legislators facing challenges in the August primary elections, in effect taking sides in a growing intraparty battle between competing wings of the GOP. Statewide, the Aug. 7 Republican primary finds 17 incumbent Republican members of the state House facing opposition — some known as being more conservative than others — while in the Senate three of the state’s most conservative incumbents face serious opposition from within their own party. Among Democrats, three incumbent representatives and two senators have primary opposition.
Gov. Haslam hits another wall on Medicaid expansion (Times Free-Press/Sher)
He’s dealing with a new U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, but Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is running into the same problem with Sylvia Mathews Burwell as he did with her predecessor when it comes to winning federal approval of his Medicaid-expansion plan. Haslam said Sunday he personally spoke with Burwell, who succeeded Kathleen Sebelius, about his long-stalled effort to gain federal approval for his “Tennessee Plan” on expanding Medicaid to an additional 160,000 low-income people under the Affordable Care Act. The Republican also said he spoke with Burwell about the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief’s recent harsh critique of his administration’s failure to provide an adequate application process for TennCare, the state’s version of Medicaid, under the ACA.
Federal Letter On TennCare Failings Surprised Haslam (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
Tennessee officials have until Monday to respond to a letter sent by Washington about the shortcomings of TennCare. Governor Bill Haslam said at the National Governor Association Meeting over the weekend that he’s not worried about losing federal funding. Thousands of Tennesseans are not getting access to subsidized health care because state officials are failing to following rules set forth in the Affordable Care Act. That’s the gist of a letter sent to the state last week. WPLN asked Governor Bill Haslam about the letter. “We obviously don’t agree totally with that letter, and we’ll have a response,” Haslam said.
Hagerty heads to Japan for joint meeting (Bristol Herald-Courier)
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty will lead a delegation from the state to the 37th annual Joint Meeting of the Japan-U.S. Southeast & Southeast U.S./Japan Associations The meeting will be held Sept. 18-20 in Tokyo, at the New Otani Hotel. Themed “Building Success through Harmony and Collaboration,” the meeting will bring together economic development and business-focused delegations from seven Southeastern member states and executives from Japan’s corporate elite for networking and panel sessions addressing current topics of mutual interest.
Nonprofit legal firms keep tabs on TennCare (Tennessean/Wilemon)
TennCare faces the prospect of lawsuits if it fails to set up a state system for people to apply for Medicaid. Attorneys with the Tennessee Justice Center, Southern Poverty Law Center and National Health Law Program are closely watching to see how the agency responds to a federal demand for a correction plan. The plan is expected to be filed Monday. Tennessee ended face-to-face assistance for people seeking Medicaid coverage on Jan. 1, when the Affordable Care Act came into full effect, and, instead, began telling people to apply online at healthcare.gov. People who should have qualified for coverage have fallen through the cracks or not been able to apply at all, according to the health advocacy and civil rights organizations.
Scores of local bridges in need of repairs (Tennessean/Brown)
Concrete pieces crumbled and fell from the underside of a busy interstate bridge in Nashville last year as cars avoided the debris that had fallen onto the street below. The Interstate 40 bridge that stretches over Charlotte Avenue was closed that day as work crews performed emergency repairs. It was one of three times last summer that state transportation officials were forced to halt traffic across the 50-year-old structure. The bridge is among 80 throughout the Nashville area in need of significant repairs. Drivers cross over the bridges an average of nearly 1.5 million times a day, according to figures compiled by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.
Abortion battle over Amendment 1 draws big money (Tennessean/Wadhwani)
A fight over the future of abortion in Tennessee is moving into high gear as both sides aim for multimillion-dollar fundraising goals for what is shaping up to be the costliest voter referendum battle in the state’s history. Abortion rights advocates have raised more than $360,000 in the past six months toward the defeat of Amendment 1, a ballot measure that would remove abortion protections from the state’s constitution. Abortion foes, who began fundraising last fall, have raised more than $518,000, according to disclosure forms filed with the state last week.
Editorial: Kansas’ Ruinous Tax Cuts (New York Times)
There was a windstorm of hasty excuses in recent weeks after Kansas reported that it took in $338 million less than expected in the 2014 fiscal year and would have to dip heavily into a reserve fund. Spending wasn’t cut enough, said conservatives. Too many rich people sold off stock in the previous year, state officials said. It’s the price of creating jobs, said Gov. Sam Brownback. None of those reasons were correct. There was only one reason for the state’s plummeting revenues, and that was the spectacularly ill-advised income tax cuts that Mr. Brownback and his fellow Republicans engineered in 2012 and 2013. The cuts, which largely benefited the wealthy, cost the state 8 percent of the revenue it needs for schools and other government services.