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August 31 TN News Digest

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

Bill Haslam: Tennessee Promise begins for high school seniors (L. Democrat)
It’s back-to-school time in Tennessee, and this fall our high school seniors have an opportunity to change the future – for themselves, their families and for our state. Earlier this year, working with the General Assembly, we passed the Tennessee Promise, a new scholarship program that provides two years of community or technical college to graduating high school seniors absolutely free of tuition and fees. The class of 2015 will be the first to take advantage of this program. Starting this month through Nov. 1, we are encouraging high school seniors to go online at tnpromise.gov to sign up.

WWII soldier missing since 1945 finally comes home (CBS News)
Friends and family of a Tennessee soldier who was missing for nearly 70 years were finally able to say goodbye Friday, CBS Chattanooga affiliate WDEF-TV reports. Army Pfc. Cecil E. Harris’ platoon came under attack Jan. 2, 1945, in France near the German border during World War II. Once the smoke cleared, his fellow soldiers noticed the 19-year-old from Shelbyville was missing Sixty-eight years later, in 2013, a French national located a possible grave marked by a rock with a crude “H” engraving.

New nursing wing opens at UT Martin Parsons Center (Jackson Sun)
Jessica Brownyard has a lot to say about the UT Martin Parsons Center. Brownyard spoke at the July 2013 announcement of the center’s new West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation Nursing Wing. On Thursday, she spoke again at a ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially opened the expansion. Sometime in the future, she can say that she’s among the first to graduate from the center’s new Bachelor of Science in Nursing program housed in the facility. Brownyard joined University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro, UT Martin Chancellor Tom Rakes, Jim and Janet Ayers of the Ayers Foundation, local and state elected officials and others to celebrate the expansion’s completion.

New act puts preservation in hands of neighbors (Jackson Sun)
Brad Greer is fed up with blight in his neighborhood that he says is caused by slumlords who don’t take care of their properties. Greer, the immediate past president of the Lambuth Area Neighborhood Association (LANA), and others involved with LANA have worked with the city to address blight, but problems persist. Now, new legislation allows LANA and others to be even more active in the fight against blight. A change to the state Neighborhood Preservation Act allows neighbors and organizations such as LANA to take the owners of rundown and overgrown properties to court. Greer said LANA plans to use the legislation to target landlords who have bought multiple properties and failed to maintain them.

Kyle moves from the statehouse to the courthouse (Commercial Appeal/Locker)
State Sen. Jim Kyle sat in the back-row, center-left chair of the Democratic leader — a seat that had been his since 2005 — and contemplated leaving the ornate Senate chamber where he’s represented Memphis since 1983. Alone except for an occasional tourist, the senator had packed up his office across the street and brought a stack of thank-you cards to the quiet out-of-session chamber to write while thinking about the people and events that dominated the room over the past 31 years. “You remember the people, you remember the faces, you remember some of the more dramatic events. I’m going to miss the give and take,” said Kyle.

How a Chattanooga payday lender avoided prosecution here (TFP/Smith)
In the years after a 2011 Times Free Press investigation revealed that a dozen shell companies were making online payday loans at interest rates far higher than those allowed under state law, prosecutors and regulators took no public action — and refused to say why Not even cease-and-desist orders sent to the payday companies from the attorneys general of New Hampshire, Maryland, California, Oregon and Pennsylvania spurred Tennessee officials to stop the unlicensed payday lending operation. But now that New York prosecutors have pieced together and indicted the payday lending syndicate that operated under the noses of the Volunteer State’s top law enforcement officials for years, Tennessee officials admit they were held back by a subjective process with unclear lines of responsibility and insufficient resources to pursue such an investigation.

DesJarlais touts record (Daily News Journal)
Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais provided the following answers to questions from The Daily News Journal: Q:Why are you running for Congress? DesJarlais: I believe Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District has helped lead the fight in Washington in returning our country back to the constitutional principles it was founded on. We have cut spending, scaled back the size of government and focused on bringing jobs here to Tennessee. While we certainly have a long way to go, I am proud of the progress we have made, and I look forward to continuing to fight for Tennessee values and principles in Congress.

Sherrell vows to listen (Daily News Journal)
Lenda Sherrell, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives 4th District, provided the following answers to questions from The Daily News Journal: Why are you running for Congress? Sherrell: Tennesseans are working harder than ever and have less to show for it. With more hours spent on the job, we still end up with less. Basics like food, college loans, transportation, rent or mortgage eat up a larger chunk of our salaries than ever before. The American Dream where we worked hard, put away savings and enjoyed the fruits of our labor, has turned into an American tragedy for our children and grandchildren. Opportunities my parents and my husband and I had are now available to only a few. I could not sit on the sidelines watching this happen.

Coverage for End-of-Life Talks Gaining Ground (New York Times)
Five years after it exploded into a political conflagration over “death panels,” the issue of paying doctors to talk to patients about end-of-life care is making a comeback, and such sessions may be covered for the 50 million Americans on Medicare as early as next year. Bypassing the political process, private insurers have begun reimbursing doctors for these “advance care planning” conversations as interest in them rises along with the number of aging Americans. People are living longer with illnesses, and many want more input into how they will spend their final days, including whether they want to die at home or in the hospital, and whether they want full-fledged life-sustaining treatment, just pain relief or something in between.

Fix Memphis’ problems, so we can lure biz without offering tax waivers (CA/Jones)
The debate about the PILOT program has taken on a rancorous tone that now defies constructive resolution and whose effects extend far beyond the issue itself. It is producing deep fault lines in our community that are never good: businesses vs. neighborhood leaders, unions vs. government, and government workers vs. the city they serve. There have been clumsy scare tactics, deliberate mangling of facts, and outrageous threats to local business owners and a dismissive attitude by some to the expressed concerns from the public about tax fairness and tax burdens.

California: Gov. Appeals Court Ruling Overturning Protections for Teachers (NYT)
Wading into an intense national battle that has pitted teacher unions against a movement to weaken tenure protections, Gov. Jerry Brown has appealed a California judge’s sweeping ruling that threw out teacher job protection laws on the ground that they deprived students of their constitutional rights. In a one-page appeal filed late Friday afternoon, Mr. Brown and the state attorney general, Kamala D. Harris, argued that a decision of such scope needed to be made by a higher court, and that the judge in this case had declined a request by the governor and attorney general “to provide a detailed statement of the factual and legal bases for its ruling.”

Texas: For Two-Year Colleges, a Chance to Grant More Four-Year Degrees (NYT)
Since 2003, when South Texas College, Midland College and Brazosport College received permission to offer bachelor’s degrees, several other community colleges have tried to acquire the same authority. Ahead of the 2015 legislative session, momentum seems to be building for other two-year institutions to get a chance to offer four-year degrees. Opening the door for new bachelor’s degrees in nursing and applied sciences at community colleges is listed as a priority recommendation for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. This month, Raymund A. Paredes, the state’s higher education commissioner, who has expressed skepticism about such programs in the past, notified legislators that he planned to recommend that such offerings be allowed at more institutions.

 

OPINION

Columnist: On Medicaid expansion, better wait to see Haslam’s plan (Tennessean)
Gov. Bill Haslam will have to manage the politics of Medicaid expansion a lot better than he has so far if he’s going to get Tennessee in line for millions of dollars in health coverage for some of its most vulnerable citizens. On Thursday, for the second time since the Affordable Care Act went into effect, Haslam promised a plan for Tennessee. The first time was in March 2013, when he christened his forthcoming effort the “Tennessee Plan.” But he never followed through on the promise, and there’s still no plan to speak of. On Thursday, in a briefing with reporters after an event downtown, the governor said he hoped to have a plan to present to the federal government sometime this fall. He didn’t explicitly say it would include expanding Medicaid, but that was the question he had been asked.

Tom Humphrey: Closer GOP wins give some hope to Tennessee Democrats (N-S)
Hope springs eternal, or at least internal, among Tennessee Democrats longing for a break in the routine of Republican romps through the general election season, and those expectations are on the upswing this Labor Day because of Lamar Alexander and Scott DesJarlais. The GOP nominees for U.S. senator and the 4th Congressional District are both seen, for different reasons, as vulnerable to credible Democratic opponents. Democratic nominees Gordon Ball, opposing Alexander, and Lenda Sherrell, opposing DesJarlais, are still extreme underdogs. But they do inspire reasonable hope.

Editorial: Race in 4th should bring much debate (Daily News Journal)
Although the process took somewhat longer than expected, the voters of the 4th Congressional District now know which candidates will be on the ballot Nov. 4. Incumbent Republican Scott DesJarlais, a physician from South Pittsburg, faces challenges from Democratic nominee Lenda Sherrell, a retired certified public accountant from Monteagle, and independent Robert Doggart, an engineer from Signal Mountain. DesJarlais only may have held a 38-vote lead over state Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville in the Republican primary Aug. 7, but that was enough to win the party nomination. We think Tracy made the right decision to concede the election to DesJarlais, despite the small difference in the vote totals.

Note: The news-clips will resume on Tuesday, September 2nd.

 

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