March 30 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.

Vietnam Veterans recognized across Tennessee (WRCB-TV Chattanooga)
Sunday was proclaimed a day to recognize the courage, service, and sacrifice of men and women who served in the Vietnam War across the state of Tennessee by Governor Bill Haslam. Monday will represent 42 years since President Nixon began withdrawing troops from Vietnam. Between 1961 and 1975, more than 49,000 Tennesseans served in Southeast Asia. Ken croft was only 18 when he joined in 1964 and spent 13 months, plus an extension in Vietnam. “I was in communications. I worked my way up from radio operator to running the message center,” said Croft.

Vietnam Veterans Day (WDEF-TV Chattanooga)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder announced March 29th will now be known as Vietnam Veterans Day. The day is to recognize the courage, service and sacrifice of the men and women who served during the Vietnam War. “The people of Tennessee stand humbled and indebted to our service members who bravely served and sadly sacrificed so much,” Grinder said. “We remember and recognize their courage today and always.” The State of Tennessee is a commemorative Partner with the United States Department of Defense to formally recognize Vietnam Veterans leading up to the 50th anniversary of the withdrawal of troops which will be in 2023.

State Fire Marshal’s Office offers tips on medical oxygen use (News-Sentinel)
The State Fire Marshal’s Office is reminding residents to educate themselves when it comes to fire hazards associated with using home medical oxygen. It is crucial to follow safety precautions when medical oxygen is in use in a home, she said. Oxygen saturates fabric-covered furniture, clothing, hair and bedding, making it easier for a fire to start and spread. According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoking is the leading heat source resulting in medical oxygen-related fires, injuries and deaths. Homes where medical oxygen is used need specific fire safety rules to protect people from fire and burns. There is no safe way to smoke in the home when oxygen is in use.

Fruit and vegetable farmers may qualify for reimbursement (Associated Press)
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is administering a reimbursement program for farmers who grow fruits or vegetables and have received Good Agriculture Practices certification. Those farmers are eligible to receive reimbursement for costs related to certification for field or packing house audits Costs that qualify include application fees, inspection costs and inspector travel. Reimbursements are limited to 50 percent of an individual’s certification costs up to $1,500 until funds are depleted.

Attorneys: TDOC does not have lethal injection drugs (Tennessean/Barchenger)
The Tennessee Department of Corrections will not say if it has the chemicals needed to execute inmates via lethal injection. Attorneys for inmates challenging the state’s protocol say the drugs are not on hand. And an opportunity for the attorneys to ask prison supervisors about the drug supply did not take place as planned Friday because of a canceled court hearing. As an increasing number of national medical organizations oppose participation in the controversial executions, it could be a challenge for Tennessee to find the drugs it needs.

Months After Apparent Demise, Insure TN Health Plan Gets A Second Life (WPLN)
No big meetings of the minds. No closed-door bargaining. No secret strategizing by Insure Tennessee’s supporters. Left for dead two months ago, Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to expand Medicaid is showing renewed signs of vigor. Its surprise return, say backers, is the result of a steady effort to keep the proposal alive since early February, when Tennessee lawmakers seemed to kill it during a special session. “We’ve never stopped working on it,” Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville), “and I think you’ll see that there are people all across Tennessee that have never stopped working on it.” Critics of Insure Tennessee say they’re worried high costs will force them to pull the plug in 2017, when the state has to start carrying some of the financial load.”

Coalition to hold rally in support of Insure Tennessee (Associated Press)
A coalition supporting Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans is planning a rally at the state Capitol on Monday. The group is comprised of clergy, students and community groups. Haslam’s original Insure Tennessee proposal failed in a special legislative session last month, but has been revived by a Democratic lawmaker in the Senate. The resolution sponsored by freshman Sen. Jeff Yarbro of Nashville was approved by the Senate Health Committee on a 6-2 vote last week, but faces tough prospects at its next stop in the Senate Commerce Committee.

5 bills up for vote: Dogs, vouchers and guns-in-parks (Tennessean/Boucher)
Banning any local law that prevents permitted gun holders from taking guns into parks and allowing school vouchers in Tennessee are among the issues up for a final vote Monday in the state House or Senate. As the Tennessee General Assembly winds down its work in Nashville, the bulk of the decisions on the fate of legislation will happen not in committee but by the full membership of both chambers. The Senate is set to start deliberations at 4 p.m. Monday, with the House scheduled to start an hour later. Here’s a look at five issues that, barring any delay, lawmakers will debate Monday night: Guns-in-parks The controversial proposal is headed to the full House.

Stopping momentum of gun bills could prove difficult (Murfreesboro Post)
Murfreesboro resident Bonnie Tinsley is joining the fight against legislation allowing gun permit holders to carry their handguns in municipal and county parks where children play and young people engage in athletics. “These are definitely not the activities that lend themselves to the presence of guns. What’s more, such decisions to protect our families should remain with our mayors and city councils. What ever happened to limited central government?” Tinsley asks in letters to local editors. Fewer guns means safer families, Tinsley contends, citing “untold” numbers of cases in which young children have shot families members with a loaded gun found on the kitchen table.

Haslam To Welcome NRA To Tennessee, Then Step Aside (WPLN-Radio Nashville)
It’s the job of the governor to greet the National Rifle Association when 75,000 conventioneers gather for the group’s annual meeting. And Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam may have to dig deep to find a positive gun-related anecdote. Last year, Indiana’s Mike Pence bragged that his wife owned a gun and a motorcycle when he met her. “Love at first sight,” he said. Two years ago in Texas, Rick Perry showed a highlight reel of him shooting human-shaped targets with a military-style rifle. Haslam probably won’t be seen holding a sidearm or leading a Second Amendment cheer.

School vouchers bill passes through key committee (Murfreesboro Post)
Two Rutherford County legislators helped voucher legislation pass a key committee last week enabling tax dollars to be used to send low-income children from failing public schools to private schools. State Rep. Dawn White, R-Murfreesboro, and state Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, supported the legislation in the House Education Administration and Planning Committee meeting where it passed in an 8-5 vote. “The money follows the child,” said White, a former Murfreesboro City Schools teacher who is a vocal proponent of vouchers. Private schools would receive about $7,000 per child, based on the state’s education funding formula. Students would have to qualify for federal subsidized food programs, and they would have to be in 5 percent of the state’s lowest-performing schools based on standardized testing. Womick previously opposed such legislation because he felt it would hurt local private schools if they are forced to change their curriculum to meet public school standards.

Odds improving for return of bingo in Tennessee (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)
Bingo games to benefit charitable causes, explicitly banned in Tennessee after the 1980s “Rocky Top” state government corruption scandal, could return on a limited basis under legislation approved by a Senate committee. “There’s nothing inherently evil about bingo,” Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, told the Senate State and Local Government Committee, adding those involved in the FBI investigation that led to more than 50 convictions “could have got into the same trouble” with “reverse lotteries or raffles.” In the 1970s, Tennessee’s Legislature legalized bingo gambling for charity fundraising. The FBI probe found that many of the charities were bogus fronts for organized gambling activities and state enforcement officials — working under the Secretary of State’s office — had taken bribes and were otherwise actively involved with the gambling.

Bill targets posthumous social media rights (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)
Legislation setting rules for access to digital information after death or disability — declaring void as a matter of Tennessee “public policy” any conflicting provisions set by Facebook and other social media sites in their user contracts — has won initial approval in a House subcommittee. The “Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act” has drawn opposition from representatives of Facebook, Google, and others, according to Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, sponsor of House Bill 774. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, is sponsor in the Senate, where the bill has not yet come up for a vote.

Advocates anxious to see GOP marijuana bill (Leaf Chronicle)
A report nearly two weeks ago that Tennessee Republican legislators were about to offer up a medical marijuana bill raised hopes of a breakthrough among some activists in the state. Speculation was that the bill would be more comprehensive than anything the GOP had previously been willing to consider. That is, in all likelihood, the case. However, when the bill failed to materialize early last week as expected, and word circulated that a lobbyist for a relatively unknown group was helping to write the bill, the speculation began to take on a different tone.

Despite New Powers, Lawmakers Tread Cautiously Around Abortion Debate (WPLN)
After Tennessee voters passed a constitutional amendment in November — paving the way for the legislature to pass new restrictions on abortion — some expected the flood gates would open. But that hasn’t really been the case. There’s been no rush. Lawmakers have even been a bit slower than in past years to push new abortion laws. State capitol reporter Chas Sisk and host Emil Moffatt discuss which proposals have the best chance of passing.



Editorial: Common sense dictates passage of Insure Tennessee (C. Appeal)
Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, should do the right thing by showing leadership that would allow the governor’s TennCare expansion plan to be voted on by the full House and Senate. Polls show that a majority of Tennesseans favor the expansion that would provide health insurance for 280,000 Tennesseans, most of whom are the working poor who cannot afford private insurance. These enrollees would have to pay a monthly premium based on income or meet certain conditions to qualify for the coverage, a fact that contradicts arguments by some expansion critics that the program would just benefit a bunch of freeloaders.

Editorial: Anti-business gun legislation deserves veto (Knoxville News-Sentinel)
One week ago, both houses of the Tennessee Legislature passed a bill that would grant employees a cause of action in court if an employer fires or disciplines over storing firearms in cars parked in company lots. Though the bill was approved by large margins — 28-5 in the Senate and 78-14 in the House, Gov. Bill Haslam should veto the measure, which tramples private property rights. The Legislature likely would easily override a veto, but at least the governor could lodge a symbolic protest on behalf of businesses across the state that could face lawsuits merely by enforcing their own private employment policies.