This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Haslam, Tenn. justice to push for amendment in Memphis (CA/Locker)
Gov. Bill Haslam and retired Tennessee Supreme Court Justice George Brown will lead a discussion in Memphis Monday in support of the proposed state constitutional amendment on the state’s appellate judiciary that’s on the general election ballot. The forum is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Salvation Army Kroc Center’s Hardin Grand Hall, 800 East Parkway South. The amendment rewrites the constitutional provision that says judges of the Tennessee Supreme Court and the two intermediate appellate courts shall be elected, and replaces it with a system in which the governor appoints the judges, subject to confirmation by the state legislature, and voters decide later on whether to retain or replace them.
Haslam proclaims Oct. 12-18 Earth Science Week (Associated Press)
Gov. Bill Haslam has proclaimed October 12-18 Earth Science Week in Tennessee. The week will be used to promote the role that geology and other earth sciences play in the state’s safety, health, welfare and economy. As part of the week, Earth Science toolkits will be distributed to science teachers across the state. The toolkits will include resources and reading materials, as well as activity calendars, field notebooks, posters and more. For more information about Earth Science Week, visit www.earthsciweek.org .
Job fairs for veterans held statewide on Thursday (Tennessean/Wilson)
Thousands of veterans are expected to attend a series of job fairs focused on hiring military personnel across Tennessee on Thursday. More than 200 employers are expected to take part in the 10 job fairs held in different communities in the state. In Nashville 59 employers, including Dollar General, Jack Daniels and HCA, will be at LP Field ready to make hires on Thursday morning, said Jeff Hentschel, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. He said employers are increasingly seeing the discipline and responsibility that soldiers can bring to a job as a major asset.
How TennCare handed over control to the feds (Tennnessean/Wilemon)
Tennessee’s actions in response to the Affordable Care Act are at the heart of a lawsuit that accuses state officials of creating barriers to people trying to enroll for Medicaid. Gov. Bill Haslam’s December 2012 decision to not have a state-run health insurance exchange was the first in a series of decisions that led to Tennessee giving up state control of enrollment duties. While Tennessee was not alone in agreeing to let the federal Health Insurance Marketplace make eligibility determinations, TennCare relied more heavily on the federal government than other state Medicaid programs. That was not according to plan. Tennessee intended to have a new computer system for processing applications.
U of M plans for competing teacher training model come into focus (CA/Roberts)
The University of Memphis has said little about its plans to create a teacher training program that would compete with its own College of Education, but a “premature” job posting last week on a partner’s website shed light on what it is shaping up to be and sent tremors though the department. According to the posting, The New Teacher Project is partnering with the university and school districts in Tennessee to create a “new approach to teacher preparation.” It has an immediate opening for a full-time director of admissions for the “Memphis Undergraduate Teacher Residency.” On Thursday, university President David Rudd said he was unaware of the posting, but said it was premature because a deal with another partner had not been finalized. He would not comment on specifics.
Tenn. voters to decide on abortion amendment (Associated Press/Loller)
Tennessee voters will have a chance this November to decide whether they want to give the state Legislature more power to regulate abortions. In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court struck down laws requiring a two-day waiting period and mandatory physician-only counseling and preventing second-trimester abortions from taking place anywhere but in a hospital. In its ruling, the court wrote that because the provisions were not narrowly tailored to promote maternal health, they violated a woman’s fundamental right to privacy as guaranteed in the Tennessee Constitution. Abortion opponents immediately began planning to change the Constitution.
Carr balks at endorsing Alexander (Associated Press)
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., faces renewed criticism from his vanquished GOP primary rival, tea party conservative Joe Carr, who so far has refused to endorse him. Carr says he doesn’t plan to do so unless the two-term senator reverses what Carr calls Alexander’s support of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants and controversial Common Core education standards. Carr said last week that after the Aug. 7 primary, he met with Alexander in a Murfreesboro-area restaurant. He recalled telling the senator, “You’re completely out of touch” on illegal immigration and Common Core. “I need you to modify your support,” Carr said he told Alexander.
After decorated political career, why is Alexander running for a third term? (T-N)
Lamar Alexander’s career has been unlike anything in Tennessee history — two terms as governor, two terms in the Senate, an appointment as U.S. Secretary of Education plus a stint as president of the University of Tennessee. So, at age 74, why would he want a third term in the U.S. Senate? His answer to that question traveled back to the 1970s. “I thought very carefully about it,” Alexander, R-Tenn., said of his plan to again be re-elected in November during a recent stop at Northeast State Community College. “I remembered Senator (Howard) Baker, in 1978, when he was thinking about running for a third term. He decided to do it and was elected and became majority leader. I remember him passing the (former President Ronald) Reagan tax cut and handing it to (former House Speaker) Tip O’Neil in the House, and it became law.”
Gordon Ball answers criticism (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)
If U.S. Senate candidate Gordon Ball doesn’t beat Lamar Alexander in November, he may have a career in standup. Ball used much of his time at a Lookout Valley Neighborhood Association candidate forum Thursday to answer criticism from his opponent’s campaign. And his answers drew giggles from the audience. Ball was reportedly given an “F” rating by the National Rifle Association — a grade he said is preposterous. “I’m a moonshiner’s son from Cocke County, Tennessee. I have a Glock next to my bed, and I have two shotguns,” Ball said. He also said recent reports that his website plagiarized phrases from other politicians were “good ideas he adopted.” Citing his rural, public education, he said he was not aware his staff had done anything wrong.
Q&A: States and Drug Prices (Stateline)
The new hepatitis C drug Sovaldi promises a cure rate of well over 90 percent, compared to 45 percent (at best) for older drugs. But when Sovaldi went on the market earlier this year for as much as $84,000 for a single course of treatment, critics blasted the cost as “exorbitant” and “gouging.” It is estimated that between 3.2 million and 5.2 million Americans have hepatitis C, an infectious illness that can eventually compromise the liver. The disease falls disproportionately on the poor and the incarcerated, which makes it a particular challenge for Medicaid, the federal-state health plan for the poor, and for state prison systems. One study by Express Scripts, a drug benefits management company, estimated it would cost states $55 billion to provide Sovaldi to all prisoners and Medicaid beneficiaries with hepatitis C.
Tennessee exports growing — except from small business (News-Sentinel/Marcum)
Somewhere in China, the Middle East, Latin America or who knows where else, somebody is uncrating a product made in Tennessee. It might be a water well drill rig in Africa or an oil rig in Kazakhstan, either of them manufactured by Loudon-based GEFCO. If the customer is one of those served by Alcoa-based Consolidated Inventory Supply (CIS), the goods could range from a set of bulldozer tracks made in Kansas to other heavy equipment parts made in East Tennessee, and the destination could be in any of about 60 countries. But if it is from East Tennessee, that product is more than likely automotive or chemical related, said Steven Livingston, who compiles reports on Tennessee exports for Middle Tennessee State University’s Business and Economic Research Center.
Fees prompt questions about school consultants in Hamilton County (TFP/Omarzu)
Tennessee leads the nation in low-paying jobs — and that goes for educational consultants who coach teachers, too. At least it does according to Cheri Dedmon, a retired East Ridge High School principal who will make $500 a day for 40 days — $20,000, total — to help coach teachers at the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, an all-girls charter school in Chattanooga’s Highland Park neighborhood that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math. “I don’t know of anybody else who’s a consultant who asks $500,” said Dedmon, who said she’s met other educational consultants from around the country who “snicker” at her daily rate.
Editorial: State cuts services into the bone (Tennessean)
We could have seen it coming, when Gov. Bill Haslam last week announced plans to cut 7 percent across the board from state spending in the upcoming budget year. Gov. Haslam has cut departmental budgets and laid off state workers in each of his four years in office. His administration has done this in years when revenues were up, and in years when revenues were down — as was the case, by $300 million, this past year. This makes us wonder: What is the real endgame for the Haslam administration? The governor might say it is simply a matter of balancing the budget, which is required under the Tennessee Constitution, and maintaining Tennessee’s strong bond ratings — both admirable goals. But where does that leave the state’s other major commitments to serve its most vulnerable citizens — children, low-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities?