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TN Senate Dems Criticize Haslam, Lawmakers for Opposition to FCC Municipal Broadband Ruling

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; March 3, 2015:

Consumers want choices, not government obstruction to limit Internet options

NASHVILLE – Tennessee lawmakers should embrace competition when it comes to broadband services, not work to limit consumer choice, Democratic leaders said.

“Anyone who has spent hours on the phone with a service provider to dispute a bill or get proper services knows consumers need more choices when it comes to Internet service,” Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris said. “It is disturbing to see lawmakers act so quickly to limit consumer choice when Tennesseans are demanding more.”

Last week the Federal Communications Commission ruled that Chattanooga’s EPB could provide lightning-speed Internet outside the municipal power distributor’s service area. The move would mean new options for consumers in the Chattanooga area and increased broadband speeds, which are a critical tool for economic development outside of major cities.

However, the governor, the attorney general and other lawmakers have stood in opposition to consumer choice, even considering a lawsuit against the federal government at great cost to the taxpayer.

“Communities like mine in rural West Tennessee don’t care so much about these technicalities,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “They care less about service areas and more about having access to fast, reliable Internet. If a provider wants to bring that to my constituents, I don’t think I want the state to get in the way.”

The decision whether to sue the FCC on this issue will be a true test of the attorney general’s independence.

“With the FCC ruling, consumers consider this matter settled,” Sen. Harris said. “No one wants to see our attorney general give in to demands from lawmakers who want to play politics rather than do what’s best for consumers and our economy.”

Fitzhugh Commends Haslam on Avoiding ‘Devastating, Catastrophic’ TennCare Cuts

Press Release from the House Democratic Caucus, May 5, 2011:

Democrats reach agreement to restore healthcare cuts; Negotiations with governor successful in improving budget

NASHVILLE – House Democrats this week were successful in budget talks with the Republican administration. Vital improvements were made in curbing harmful cuts, House leaders said.

“Governor Haslam’s original budget contained devastating and catastrophic cuts to TennCare that would have drastically affected the lives of those citizens in our state who need us the most,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley).

The preliminary budget included cuts to nursing homes, medical transportation providers, lab and x-ray services, Meharry Medical College, the department of intellectual and developmental disabilities, dental services for children, home health providers, and services that help young children stay alive. There were also cuts to the Regional Med in Memphis, Metro General Hospital, and Jellico Hospital.

“As Democrats we met with the governor and expressed how serious these cuts were,” Fitzhugh said. “Through our negotiating with the governor and his commissioners, we are pleased to announce that we have convinced the governor to restore nearly $250 million to TennCare.”

“We are happy that the governor has listened to our concerns, and that he agrees funding in these crucial areas is the right thing to do,” Fitzhugh said.

Dems Ask, ‘Where’s the Freedom’ in Health Freedom Act?

Press Release from the House Democratic Caucus, March 8, 2011:

Initiatives to help seniors, chronically ill, children defeated by GOP Democratic amendments to improve Republican health care bill denied Monday

(Nashville) – Democrats attempted unsuccessfully Monday to oppose pre-existing condition requirements on insurance for children, to oppose monetary limits on lifetime coverage for the chronically ill, to support better prescription-drug coverage for seniors and to support insurance for college students until their 26th birthdays.

These initiatives were defeated by the Republican majority, who opposed the changes to the GOP-sponsored “Tennessee Healthcare Freedom Act.”

“This bill, which speaks to Tennessee’s policies regarding national healthcare, could have been a vehicle to lay out some sound principles for our children, seniors, college students and chronically ill,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Old Hickory). “Unfortunately, the sponsors of this bill ignored the needs and rights of these folks.

“It’s really a shame. Where is the ‘freedom’ in being subjected to unfair insurance practices that affect our most vulnerable?

Votes were taken on four amendments proposed by House Democrats that would have declared the pubic policy of Tennessee as the following:

narrowing the “donut hole” in Medicare prescription drug coverage for seniors extending the coverage of adult children up to the age of 26 eliminating lifetime limits on the dollar value of health insurance abolishing pre-existing-condition requirements of children.

“I think the amendments showed some positive public policy for this state, and I hate that they were not put on this bill,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley).