This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
22,000 enroll in Tennessee Promise for free community college tuition (TFP/Sher)
Some 22,800 students have registered so far in Gov. Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise program, which offers “last dollars” scholarships to high school graduates wanting to attend two-year state community colleges or colleges of applied technology, officials say. “The Tennessee Promise is a game-changer for the state,” Haslam said in a statement Friday evening. “It’s a clear statement to families that education beyond high school is a priority in Tennessee, and we’re excited that so many have signed up to take advantage of this new opportunity.” He noted “there’s still a month left for seniors to apply so we encourage everyone who hasn’t to visit tnpromise.gov by Nov. 1 and fill out an application.”
Community colleges look to TN Promise to help lagging enrollment (N-S/Boehnke)
Community colleges are looking to the new statewide Tennessee Promise scholarship to bolster declining enrollment that’s followed the end of a national recession. Since its most recent peak in fall 2010,enrollment at the state’s 13 community colleges has dropped almost 12 percent to 86,208, according to data presented by the Tennessee Board of Regents at its quarterly meeting Friday at Pellissippi State Community College. “We’ve helped folks come back and get retrained and retooled to go back out into the work force, and they’ve done that successfully,” said Pellissippi State President Anthony Wise. “(Enrollment at) community colleges run counter-cyclical to the economy.”
Haslam pushes ahead for Medicaid expansion (Associated Press/Schelzig)
Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s still in talks over finding a way to expand Medicaid in Tennessee despite pushback from fellow Republicans in the state legislature. The governor said in a conference call with reporters Thursday that he wants to find a solution that is acceptable both to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and to largely skeptical lawmakers in Tennessee, who must approve any deal under a law passed earlier this year. Haslam said that he had meetings on the subject in Washington as recently as two weeks ago and that TennCare officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on the issue.
State soon may submit proposal to provide Medicaid expansion (AP, Tennessean)
In a move that could mean health coverage for thousands of Tennesseans, Gov. Bill Haslam said in August that the state may soon submit a proposal to Washington to expand Tennessee’s Medicaid program but did not release any new details on how it might work. This would be the first time for the governor to actually submit a plan. If approved by federal officials and the state Legislature, the plan would help Tennesseans caught in the coverage gap of the Affordable Care Act, which has left 162,000 Tennesseans without health insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In March 2013, Haslam ruled out expansion of a traditional Medicaid model and said he favored a plan to leverage federal funds to, instead, help the poor buy private health insurance.
Finance officials paint rosy picture despite Wall Street concern (CA/Locker)
Wall Street’s bond rating agencies expressed concern about Tennessee’s decline in business tax revenue when Gov. Bill Haslam and other top state finance officials delivered their annual updates on state finances Thursday. “Because that was the cause of our (budget) shortfall, there were quite a bit of questions about that in terms of cause and whether we see a long-term trend there,” Haslam said after meeting with Fitch Ratings Inc., Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s Financial Services in New York. The governor said part of the decline was attributable to business tax over-collections the previous year, along with some large refunds last year.
TennCare appeals federal judge’s order (Tennessean/Wilemon)
Tennessee is appealing a federal judge’s decision that would force TennCare to address the problems of state residents who have waited for months to learn the status of their Medicaid applications. Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. on Friday filed a notice that the state will challenge a Sept. 2 injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell. Cooper and lawyers with a Washington-based firm will ask the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati to set aside that injunction, which requires TennCare to hold hearings for people with backlogged applications. The legal firm, Cooper & Kirk LLC, also represented Tennessee in a prior dispute about TennCare that wound up costing the state about $23 million in litigation costs, according to an estimate provided by Deputy Attorney General Linda A. Ross during 2011 testimony before the judge in that case.
TennCare appeals judge’s ruling (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Belz)
Tennessee’s Medicaid agency will try to overturn a federal judge’s ruling that ordered the agency to take responsibility for long delays in getting applications processed. Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper filed notice of the appeal Friday. The case will now head to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio. The appeal seeks to reverse the decision handed down this month by Nashville U.S. District Court Judge Todd J. Campbell, who ordered TennCare to hold hearings for people who have faced month-long delays getting their Medicaid applications processed. Campbell also granted class-action status to a lawsuit, meaning anyone in the state dealing with such delays can be given a hearing.
TN grand jury recommends criminal charges for Harwell, Ramsey (AP/Schelzig)
A grand jury in Nashville on Friday recommended criminal charges against Tennessee state Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell for failing to appoint an adequate number of women and minorities to a commission that decides whether Tennessee’s appeals judges keep their jobs. Davidson County District Attorney General Glenn Funk is reviewing the grand jury report and will make the final decision on whether to file charges against them, spokeswoman Dorinda Carter told The Associated Press. The Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, which recommends whether to retain appeals court judges, is supposed to mirror the state in its makeup of women and minorities, but does not. It is currently composed of seven white men, one white woman and one African-American woman. The grand jury report said Ramsey and Harwell “willfully and arrogantly ignored the law regarding those appointments.”
State law to give Brentwood developers new deadlines (Tennessean/Brown)
Developers in Brentwood will soon be subject to new deadlines for starting and finishing commercial and residential construction projects in the city. A state law passed earlier this year was designed to give developers more time to finish projects that have already been greenlighted by local governments — without having to go through the approval process again if development codes change. Brentwood commissioners have been discussing the new ordinance, which would bring the city’s development guidelines into agreement with the new state law — which gives developers as long as 15 years to finish multiphase projects.
Plastic Omnium wins work to supply VW’s new SUV (Times Free-Press/Pare)
A key supplier to Volkswagen’s Chattanooga assembly plant that’s building a $70 million factory at Enterprise South industrial park has captured work to build bumpers for the automaker’s new sport utility vehicle. “We have won business for the SUV,” Marc Cornet, chief executive of the Americas for Plastic Omnium Auto Exteriors, said Friday as the company officially broke ground on a 27-acre site near the VW factory. Winning the SUV work, along with other business, will help smooth the way for Plastic Omnium to employ about 300 people at the plant in some three years, he said. The French supplier, which already provides parts for the Chattanooga-made Passat sedan, has begun initial hiring for 184 employees expected to be on staff by mid-2015 when the new plant is to start operating off Hickory Valley Road.