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TN House Votes to ‘Stand with Rand’ (and Babs)

The Tennessee House has passed a resolution in support of a joint proposal by U.S. Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to reinvest in the Highway Trust Fund “at no additional costs to taxpayers.”

Sponsored by Dresden Republican Andy Holt, HJR0094 encourages Congress to “Stand with Rand: Invest in Transportation.” It passed Wednesday on an 86-3 vote.

Paul and Boxer are pushing federal legislation to allow companies to voluntarily repatriate their earnings held in foreign banks at a tax rate of 6.5 percent, and funnel that revenue to the highway fund.  The adjusted tax rate would only apply to funds that are in excess of the company’s recent average repatriations, and only to money “earned in 2015 or earlier,” according to a press release. The companies would have five years to take advantage of the proposal.

Holt said Tennessee could see over $100 billion in transportation infrastructure revenue, should the legislation pass.

The possibility of raising the gas tax — both federally and at the state level — has been floated recently as ways to continue road improvements and shore up the trust fund.

Rep. Antonio “2 Shay” Parkinson, D-Memphis, questioned if “Stand with Rand” was Sen. Paul’s campaign slogan. Holt replied that he wasn’t sure, but said the purpose of the resolution is to show support for the transportation funding action taken by the Kentucky senator at the federal level.

Parkinson voted against the measure, joined by fellow Democrats G.A. Hardaway of Memphis and Bo Mitchell of Nashville.

If no congressional action is taken, the Highway Trust Fund is projected to go insolvent by May 31.

Support for federal land transfer more partisan

The House passed another Holt-sponsored resolution as well Wednesday, but mostly without support from Democrats. That measure, House Joint Resolution 92, passed 64-25 with 3 abstentions.  It calls on the federal government to cede federally controlled public lands in the western United States back to the states in which they are situated.

The resolution declares that “limiting the ability of western states to access and utilize the public lands’ natural resources within their borders is having a negative impact upon the economy of those western states and therefore the economy of the entire United States.”

Three Republicans — Ryan Haynes and Eddie Smith of Knoxville, and Cameron Sexton of Crossville — joined the majority of Democrats to vote against the resolution. GOP Reps. Patsy Hazlewood of Signal Mountain and Pat Marsh of Shelbyville, and Memphis Democrat Johnnie Turner, indicated they were present but not voting.

Livingston Rep. John Mark Windle was the only Democrat to vote yes on the resolution.

Holt explained that while the resolution calls on the federal government to transfer public lands to the states they occur within, it also requests the states return to the U.S. government any land designated as being a part of the National Park System, the National Wilderness system or belonging to the military.

Holt got pushback on the floor from Rep. Jason Powell, a Nashville Democrat, who said “we must protect America’s backyard, the American West.”

The House Democratic Caucus issued a press release following the House session condemning the resolution as a vote against hunters and others who enjoy outdoor recreation in the nation’s parks.

The South Carolina Assembly passed a similarly worded resolution in 2013.

According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, since Utah passed legislation in 2012 calling for the transfer of public lands to the state, several other states have passed legislation along the same lines, including Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and New Mexico.

Both the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Republican National Committee have issued “model resolutions” in support of the concept, but both are worded differently from Holt’s resolution.

Contact Alex Harris at alex@tnreport.com.

Gilmore Elected Chair of TN Black Caucus of State Legislators

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; February 12, 2015:

State Representative Brenda Gilmore has been elected Chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators. Representative Gilmore is serving her fifth term in the Tennessee House representing District 54 in Davidson County. Prior to that, she spent 8 years on the Nashville Metro Council. Gilmore says, “It is a great honor to be elected Chair of this historic body that has worked tirelessly for Tennesseans. “ Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart noted Gilmore’s own tireless leadership in all her endeavors. Chairman Stewart said, “Representative Gilmore has brought a great deal of drive and energy to the State House and I believe that she will bring that same focus to the leadership of the Tennessee Black Caucus”.

Representative Gilmore serves on the House Business and Utilities Committee, the House Finance Ways and Means Committee, the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee and the Joint Fiscal Review Committee. She was also previously Vice-Chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus. Nationally, she serves as State Director for Women in Government, Executive Committee of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) and Chair-elect of the Women’s Network, National Caucus of State Legislators (NCSL) and Executive Board of National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. Additionally, she has worked with the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the Nashville Women Political Caucus and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

On the personal side, Gilmore is a proud graduate of Tennessee State University and received a Master of Human Resource Development degree from Vanderbilt University. She is married with one child and is a member of Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

Responses to Gov. Haslam’s State of the State Address

Press release from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville; February 9, 2015:

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) made the statement below following Governor Bill Haslam’s State of the State address:

“Governor Haslam has delivered yet another outstanding State of the State address setting an agenda that will continue to make Tennessee the best state in the union to live, work and raise a family. Four years of conservative governance has brought Tennesseans more jobs, lower taxes and smaller and more efficient government. We have accomplished much together in the past four years, but there is still much left to do. I particularly appreciate Governor Haslam’s continued focus on education reform building upon Tennessee’s strong record of improvement. I look forward to working with Governor Haslam as we reward good teachers and lift our expectations up to a true Tennessee standard that challenges and prepares students for the high quality jobs of the future.”

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; February 9, 2015:

Sen. Yarbro confident Insure Tennessee will be reintroduced

NASHVILLE – Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus released the following statements in response to Gov. Bill Haslam’s state of the state address:

“Making health care affordable for everyone is the most important issue facing our state,” Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro said. “We need the governor and common sense legislators of both parties to come together around a plan. I am confident that Insure Tennessee will be reintroduced during this session.”

“Our state is making extraordinary gains in education, and I would be very troubled to see that progress stop over one party’s partisan political objections,” Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris said. “We need to continue to support the highest standards for our students and keep up the progress we’ve made.”

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; February 9, 2015:

Looks for more middle-class outward approach

Nashville, TN: House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) issued the following statement following Governor Haslam’s State of the State speech:

“Though I am pleased to hear our teachers are finally getting the raise they were promised last year, I didn’t hear much about helping the working people of our state just a week after this body denied them health care. We’re still not talking about paid family leave, overtime compensation, and parental involvement in schools. Democrats think we need a more middle-class outward approach and that’s what you’ll see from us over the next few weeks.”

 

Clemmons: Insure TN Defeat ‘Premeditated’

Press release from Tennessee Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville; February 8, 2015:

Like Tennessee’s Working Poor, the Governor’s Proposal Never Had a Chance

Nashville, TN – State Representative John Ray Clemmons issued the following statement this morning:

While the defeat of Insure Tennessee was disheartening to those of us who worked so hard for its passage, it was a severe blow to the 280,000 hard-working Tennesseans whose lives and well-being depends on access to quality, affordable healthcare. Tennessee families from the mountains to the Mississippi River are rightfully upset that their families will continue to needlessly suffer, because the state legislature failed to do what it was elected to do – represent their best interests.

But what Tennesseans should really be angry about is that the outcome of the recent special session was rigged from the outset. While many expressed shock and embarrassment after Insure Tennessee’s premature demise, including Governor Haslam, the radical right in the state legislature knew how the process would end before it ever started. Like the working poor in our state, Insure Tennessee never had a chance.

Publicly, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey spoke optimistically and even favorably about the Governor’s proposal. Behind closed doors, Ramsey conspired with his fellow radicals and used “Chicago-style politics” to kill Insure Tennessee long before other legislators arrived for last week’s special session. The special session was nothing short of a taxpayer-funded charade. In yet another example of the rampant hypocrisy running rampant through their ranks, Ramsey and his cohorts wasted the very taxpayers’ dollars they proclaim to hold sacred.

In short, Lt. Gov. Ramsey stacked the deck. How he did it is now well known. He created an ad hoc Health and Welfare Committee specifically for the special session that bears little resemblance to the actual Health and Welfare Committee that will meet this week and for the remainder of the legislative session. Ramsey purposefully stacked this “extraordinary” Senate Health and Welfare Committee with six state senators who openly opposed Insure Tennessee but do not actually serve on the standing committee. To make room for these “no” votes, Lt. Gov. Ramsey removed three healthcare professionals, as well as the bill’s Senate sponsor, from the standing committee. Ultimately, all six of the temporary committee members voted “no” and killed the Governor’s proposal, effectively ending the special session.

Had the regular Health and Welfare Committee voted on the legislation, it would have likely PASSED.

Ramsey and his radical colleagues’ political gamesmanship cost over 470,000 Tennesseans, including over 24,000 veterans, the opportunity to receive health coverage through Insure Tennessee programs. Insure Tennessee was to bring an estimated $1.14 billion to our state and create approximately 15,000 jobs, generating $909 million in income. Tennessee taxpayers have already lost over $1 billion and stand to lose $7.8 billion in federal taxes to other states over a ten year period.

I am calling on House leadership to allow Insure Tennessee to move forward during the regular legislative session. I also urge introduction of a companion bill in the Senate where the Governor’s proposal can get a fair hearing before its real Health and Welfare Committee. In contrast to the charade perpetrated last week, hard-working Tennesseans deserve a chance at a better, healthier life.

John Ray Clemmons, an attorney, represents District 55 in the Tennessee House of Representatives, serving on the House Health Committee, Health Subcommittee and the Jt. Government Operations Committee.

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Senate Health & Welfare Comparison

Fitzhugh Calls on General Assembly to Pass Insure TN

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; February 4, 2015:

Fitzhugh Statement on Billion Dollars Lost
Time for General Assembly to pass Insure Tennessee

Nashville, TN: House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) issued the following statement marking the 400th day without a solution for those in the Medicaid gap, as well as the $1 billon mark for funds lost:

“Today is a sad anniversary for Tennessee as we mark the 400th day with no solution for those in the Medicaid gap. As of this morning, our tax payers have lost $1 billion—that’s billion with a ‘B’—to other states, while 800 totally preventable deaths have occurred because working people could not afford coverage. When a solution is so close, delaying passage any further is a moral crisis of the first degree. There are 280,000 working people waiting for the General Assembly to make the right decision. It’s time to act now and pass Insure Tennessee.”

Rep. Powell Invites Public to Suggest Bills

Press release from Tennessee Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville; January 29, 2015:

Any successful business asks customers for suggestions about what can be done to improve their product, and government must do the same. I want to engage the public in my quest for great new legislative ideas.

For anyone thinking, “I wish someone would make this a law” this is the opportunity! I’m inviting the public to send me a proposal, in 250 words or less, for a bill he or she would sponsor as a representative. Every proposal will be considered no matter if it is from a Democrat, Republican, independent or tea partier.

I will read all suggestions and narrow the list down to my preferred ideas, then I will contact the sponsor to get a more in-depth take on their proposed legislation. I will select at least one idea and run it as a bill. There is a possibility that the bill won’t become law because it will ultimately have to pass the General Assembly and be signed by the governor. However, it will not fail for lack of trying on my part.

Let’s see if this if this year’s best piece of legislation comes from a constituent, not a politician. My goal is not to revolutionize the legislative process, but to simply increase public participation in governance with the hope of passing legislation to improve Tennessee.

Anyone can email me with their name, address and legislative idea in 250 words or less at rep.jason.powell@capitol.tn.gov or submit at MyTNIdea.com before Thursday, February 5.

Rep. Jason L. Powell
District 53, Davidson County
301 6th Avenue North
Suite 34 – Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243

Reps Camper, Gilmore Join Bi-partisan Group of State Lawmakers Fighting Hunger

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; September 10, 2014:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Reps. Karen Camper (D-Memphis) and Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) joined with over 200 state leaders from around the country to help pack 32,000 meals for the Alaska Food Bank as part of the Council of State Governments’ service project during their national conference in Anchorage on August 13th.

“I was grateful for the opportunity to work with a bi-partisan group of lawmakers from Tennessee and across the country to help feed those who are hungry,” said Rep. Gilmore. “Now we need to take that same sense of bi-partisanship and caring to find policy solutions that will end hunger in Tennessee and increase access to nutritional foods for everyone.”

September is “Hunger Action Month,” a campaign designed to engage the public on issues related to hunger and nutrition in America. According to statistics provided by Feeding America, Tennessee has over 1.1 million people who are food insecure, with 368,000 of them being children. A food insecure household is one that lacks, at times, access to enough nutritious food for a healthy, active lifestyle.

“No child in the richest nation in the world should ever go to bed hungry or have to skip a meal because their families can’t afford it,” said Rep. Camper. “Every man, woman and child in America should have access to healthy, nutritious and affordable food. I hope all of my fellow Tennesseans will join in making sure we make this goal a reality.”

Those who would like to make a difference during Hunger Action Month are encouraged to contact local agencies responsible for helping to feed the hungry. People in Nashville can contact the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee (http://secondharvestmidtn.org/) while those in the Memphis area should visit the Mid-South Food Bank (http://www.midsouthfoodbank.org/) to learn more about how they can help end hunger in Tennessee.

Gilmore Elected to Leadership Positions in 2 National Legislative Organizations

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; August 27, 2014:

Rep. Gilmore to serve as President-Elect of the Women’s Legislative Network and a national board member of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Representative Brenda Gilmore was honored to receive the support of her colleagues from around the country, having been elected to two key positions within national legislative organizations in the past two weeks.

Rep. Gilmore was elected to be President-elect of the Women’s Legislative Network at the National Conference of State Legislators’ Legislative Summit. Rep. Gilmore has served as Vice President of the organization since 2013.

“As women we are often a majority of the voters but a small minority of the legislators,” said Rep. Gilmore. “By working together to give each other strength and support, I believe we can expand our numbers and give women the voice they deserve in government.”

The Women’s Legislative Network was formally organized in 1985 at the Annual Meeting of NCSL in Seattle and it focuses on issues unique to women, as well as providing trainings to help women legislators better communicate with their constituents.

Rep. Gilmore was also elected to the board of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) at their first ever national issues forum in Minneapolis. Rep. Gilmore has been an environmental leader in Tennessee, having consistently been ranked as one of the top environmentally friendly legislators by Tennessee Conservation Voters.

“Everyone deserves the right to clean water and breathable air,” said Rep. Gilmore. “I have been a staunch supporter of environmental laws that will protect our air and water for those of us here today, as well as future generations to come.”

NCEL was organized in 1996 for the purpose of providing environmentally progressive legislators with an opportunity to coordinate their activities with respect to national legislative organizations, and to share ideas both on affirmative and negative environmental issues.

Haslam Optimistic New HHS Head Will Work With TN on Medicaid Expansion

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said he expects discussions about Medicaid expansion in the Volunteer State will come up this week at the National Governors Association meeting in Nashville.

Sylvia Burwell, the new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary, is expected to attend the NGA meeting, Haslam told reporters following a grant announcement in Dunlap Tuesday. She was appointed to the post June 9.

Despite the fact that it’s been about a year and a half since Haslam said he wanted to develop a special “Tennessee Plan” for accessing Affordable Care Act money to expand government-financed health insurance for the state’s lower income residents, there’s been little visible movement toward a compromise.

In the meantime, the Legislature has passed a law requiring that the General Assembly sign off on any agreement the Haslam administration reaches with Washington for it to take effect. Republicans dominate in the statehouse, and many have indicated they’re in no way whatsoever interested in facilitating any aspect of Obamacare.

Still, the governor said, new blood at HHS may mean novel approaches will be considered by those administering the ACA at the federal level.

“We’ve always had hope that there’s something to work out, or we would have just quit a long time ago,” Haslam said. “But I think obviously whenever you introduce somebody new into the process, you hope it’ll be somebody who can help get some of the logs unjammed.”

Haslam said he’s met Burwell previously when she was in a different position, but this week’s meeting in Nashville would be the first chance he’s had to speak with her since she was appointed head of the department that oversees the execution of Obamacare policies.

Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s first appointment to that role, resigned on April 11, in the wake of months of criticism over the problematic roll out of the Affordable Care Act federal health care exchange.

According to the Affordable Care Act, if Tennessee agrees to expand TennCare, the federal government will pick up the tab for the coverage through 2016, and provide part of the cost after that.

Haslam initially held out for a waiver from HHS that would allow him to establish a “third way,” and use federal money to subsidize private insurance to extend coverage to 175,000 uninsured Tennesseans.

An agreement was never reached between Sebelius and Haslam, but Haslam has continued to say that he is still working on finding a way to reach a middle ground between the Obama administration and Tennessee’s Republican super-majority in the General Assembly.

The Tennessee House Democratic Caucus sent out a press release last week referencing a recent report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors that “lays out the fiscal, economic and moral failure caused by the Haslam administration’s refusal to expand Medicaid in Tennessee.”

But there is concern among those opposed to expanding the state’s poverty health care program about whether the federal government can afford to do that, as well as what the state should do in the case that the money for the program is not forthcoming from federal officials.

Back in the mid-2000s, under Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, Tennessee had to remove more than 300,000 from TennCare coverage, due to rising costs and lack of funding, a problematic time that is often pointed to by opponents of Medicaid expansion.

Haslam was in Dunlap to award a transportation grant of $591,141 to the city for them to help connect nearby residential areas with the downtown education centers and business district.

The NGA meeting begins Thursday, July 10, in Nashville, and runs through July 13.

TN House Dems: Haslam Hurting TN by Not Expanding Medicaid

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; July 2, 2014:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Wednesday, July 2, 2014) – A new report released by the White House Council of Economic Advisers titled “Missed Opportunities: The consequences of state decisions not to expand Medicaid,” lays out the fiscal, economic and moral failure caused by the Haslam administration’s refusal to expand Medicaid in Tennessee.

“How much more proof does the Governor and this Republican majority need to realize they are hurting Tennesseans by playing politics with Medicaid?” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “You don’t have to be an economist to understand the positive impact expansion would have on our economy and our citizens’ lives.”

Tennessee is one of 24 states listed in the report that has refused to participate in the Medicaid expansion, which would be fully-funded by the federal government until the end of 2016 and would give working men and women up to 138% of the federal poverty level access to health care coverage.

“It is gut-wrenching to think of all the women whose lives could be saved through early detection of breast and cervical cancer,” said Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis). “This is an issue that should transcend politics. We have the opportunity to help so many hardworking families in a way that boosts our economy and creates jobs – I just can’t fathom how people of faith and good conscience could refuse to act.”

The report by the Council of Economic Advisers forecasts the benefits of Medicaid expansion for states if they would have joined the 26 other states, along with the District of Columbia, in participating in the Medicaid expansion. The results for Tennessee are as follows:

Health and Well-being of Tennesseans

The number of Tennesseans with insurance coverage would have increased by 234,000 people by the end of 2016 if Governor Haslam and the Republican majority expanded Medicaid.

14,000 women in Tennessee would be receiving cancer detecting Pap smears, along with 9,500 more women who could catch breast cancer early through mammogram screenings.

56,000 more Tennesseans would have a usual source of clinic care, with 27,000 more Tennesseans receiving all the medical care they require due to the 632,000 additional physician visits each year.

As a result of Medicaid expansion, the number of Tennesseans experiencing depression would have decreased by 19,000, with 31,000 more Tennesseans reporting good, very good or excellent health.

Health and Well-being of Tennessee’s Economy

If Governor Haslam would do the right thing, 10,500 fewer Tennesseans would be stuck paying catastrophic out-of-pocket health care costs each year, while 33,300 fewer people would have to take out loans to pay for their medical bills.

Tennessee’s gross domestic product would increase by $3,810,000,000 between 2014-2017 if we expanded Medicaid, thanks to the $5,130,000,000 increase in federal expenditures in Tennessee, resulting in 21,700 jobs creased between 2014 and 2017.

The full “Missed Opportunities” report can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/missed_opportunities_medicaid.pdf