October 22 TN News Digest

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

Haslam keeping West Tennessee jobs in mind (Jackson Sun)

Gov. Bill Haslam touted the state’s work with the West Tennessee Megasite and his Tennessee Promise plan while asking voters in Brownsville to get out to the polls Tuesday afternoon. Haslam was joined by state Sen. Dolores Gresham, who represents District 26; Haywood County Mayor Franklin Smith; and Brownsville Mayor Bill Rawls. Haslam said that a more educated workforce would be better equipped to go to work for industries when they come to town, such as the industry that eventually will fill the megasite. “What I’m here to tell you all is that we get that,” Haslam said. “We understand how critical that is, not just for here but for the entire region. We continue to focus on that every day. We’re doing what we can to bring someone to that site.”

CO receives $267,000 in CDBG funds (Crossville Chronicle)

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam recently approved more than $28 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to assist Tennessee communities with infrastructure, health and safety projects, and downtown improvements. The city of Crab Orchard received $267,000 in grant funds to renovate the fire and ambulance station.  This grant was submitted by the city of Crab Orchard with Cumberland County providing the matching funds to the grant. With the grant, the city of Crab Orchard is proposing to upgrade and improve the existing fire station to better serve the Volunteer Fire Department and the Emergency Management Services personnel.

THP recruits Ashland City students to produce PSA (Ashland City Times)

The Tennessee Highway Patrol recruited the help of Cheatham County Schools to produce its bus safety public service announcement. “We are very excited to work with the THP to produce this public service announcement to help bring awareness to highway safety in relation to school buses and students,” said transportation director Cal Blacker. The video will feature THP Col. Tracy Trott and students from Ashland City Elementary School. Blacker added that THP officials were pleased with the look and feel of the school. “Col. Trott was extremely complimentary of our facilities and cooperation,” he said. According to officials, the public service announcement will focus on bus safety for all cars surrounding buses in regular traffic situations.

State shuts down Medina dialysis clinic (Associated Press)

A dialysis clinic in West Tennessee has been shut down by state regulators over concerns of patients being put at risk for bloodstream infections. The Tennessee Department of Health this month reported that the license for Advanced Dialysis Clinic LLC in Medina was revoked. The Tennessean reported that regulators concluded the clinic failed to follow through on a plan of corrections after state officials saw several infection control violations during a January inspection. The state in 2012 began requiring dialysis centers to report bloodstream infections, but Tennessee is not yet releasing infection rates for individual dialysis centers as it does for hospitals. Clusters of bloodstream infections occurred at two dialysis centers in the state last year.

Rep. Johnson compared to Kiffin in political ad (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Vines)

A political action committee supporting school vouchers has turned to an ad similar to one used two years ago by the Tennessee Republican Party to compare state Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, to former University of Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin. This year’s ad by the Tennessee Federation for Children PAC said, among the comparisons, “Like Lane Kiffin, who made a lot of big promises to Tennesseans, Gloria Johnson went to Nashville claiming she was going to reform health care and create jobs. And like Lane Kiffin, Gloria Johnson didn’t live up to her word.” Legendary former UT football coach Johnny Majors, who got the mailer as a resident of the district, said Tuesday it is false in every way. “It is one of the most underhanded mailings I’ve ever seen,” he said.

House District 48 candidates aim for constituent connections (Daily News Journal)

The two candidates vying to replace state Rep. Joe Carr in House District 48 are trying to position themselves as a successor focused on working with their constituents — even if the policies they support vary widely. Bryan Terry, an anesthesiologist at Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital who narrowly won his three-way Republican primary in August, said he would actively reach out to voters in a way that would promote what he called “self-governance” among them. William “Bill” Campbell, the Democratic nominee and a retired campus minister for the Wesley Foundation at Middle Tennessee State University, emphasized his pragmatic approach to issues that would directly affect the residents of eastern Rutherford County he wants to serve. The candidates will participate in a public forum sponsored by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters at 7 p.m. Wedneday night at the Rutherford County Courthouse.

City hires firm to lobby state legislature (Johnson City Press)

Johnson City administrators, commissioners and staff hope to benefit from a Nashville lobbying firm hired to monitor the General Assembly and act as an advocate for legislation beneficial to the city. City commissioners last week approved a proposal from Nashville’s Windrow Phillips Group for “professional legislative services.” The firm will be paid a $30,000 annual retainer fee to act as a line of communication between the city’s legislative delegation and city officials. The group also will work with the city on matters pertaining to various state departments and the governor’s office, monitor committees and subcommittees and help push for the city’s legislative wants and needs. “When legislators are in session, things move very quickly,” City Manager Pete Peterson said. “We need to make sure the voice of Johnson City is heard, and this group is acquainted with people on both sides of the aisle.”

Tennessee Voter Turnout Light So Far, Particularly In Nashville (WPLN-Radio)

Five days into early voting, 129,000 Tennesseans have cast a ballot. That’s roughly half the number who voted by this point two years ago, when a Presidential election was underway. Turnout has been particularly light in Davidson County, where only 2,500 people have cast a ballot. More than twice that number have headed to the polls in surrounding counties of Williamson and Rutherford. Knox County and Knoxville lead the state, where a total of 13,200 people have turned out. For comparison, roughly 2,500 voters have been showing up to the polls there each day. For those who are voting in Nashville, ballot measures are often the driver. Paul Woody wants supermarkets to be able to sell wine.

Early voting numbers down statewide (Times Free-Press/Brogdon, Sher)

Tennessee’s first five days of early voting was down by nearly a third compared to the somewhat similar 2010 election, state figures show. According to Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s website, 136,880 registered voters took advantage of early voting from its start last Wednesday through Monday. That compares with 203,793 people who voted during the first five days of early voting in the 2010 midterm election. It’s a 32.8 percent decrease. The same trend holds true for Hamilton County in the Nov. 4 election with 5,670 voters casting ballots in the first five days, compared to 8,084 in 2010. The decline represents a 29.9 percent drop, county election records show.

Wine Sales Debate Enters Stretch Run (Memphis Daily News)

Josh Hammond, the president of Buster’s Liquor and Wines, sums up the position he has to overcome in a word – convenience. That is how backers of the referendums on the Nov. 4 ballot to allow wine sales in food stores are selling the proposition to voters via television ads as early voters are making their choices on the questions in Memphis, Bartlett, Collierville, Arlington, Millington and Germantown. The question is not on the ballot in Lakeland and unincorporated Shelby County. “It will be a loss of jobs issue for us. For other stores it could mean going out of business,” Hammond said of the impact on wine and liquor stores. “There’s no doubt this legislation will put stores out of business.”

Advocates Continue Call for Medicaid Expansion (Associated Press/Johnson)

Members of the state chapter of the NAACP and other health care advocates held a mock funeral across from the state Capitol on Tuesday to characterize lives they say will be lost if Medicaid is not expanded in Tennessee. About 100 people attended the event, which included a processional with a casket. Organizers say many people have died because they don’t have health care and that there will be more deaths if Medicaid is not expanded. “The suffering is profound,” said Margaret Ecker, an outreach coordinator with the Tennessee Justice Center, a leading advocate for enrollees in TennCare, Tennessee’s version of Medicaid. “These are human beings who will all care for. It’s about doing the right thing.”

Nashvillians hold mock funeral for Medicaid expansion (Tennessean/Wilemon)

Leaders with the Tennessee NAACP staged a mock funeral Tuesday to mourn for “the denial of Medicaid expansion,” noting that some people who go without coverage will die because their medical conditions will go untreated. About 80 people showed up for the event in front of the Capitol. Gov. Bill Haslam has said no to a traditional Medicaid expansion but has talked about a “Tennessee plan” that might garner federal funds from the Affordable Care Act to cover poor people who are uninsured. Any such plan, once submitted to federal officials, would have to receive their OK as well as approval from the Tennessee legislature.

NAACP Throw ‘Mock Funeral’ Urging Medicaid Expansion In Tennessee (WPLN)

Activists on Tuesday put together the latest and perhaps most striking demonstration applying pressure on the governor to accept new Medicaid money. A hearse rolled up to War Memorial Plaza and suited men wearing white gloves carried an empty casket within view of the state Capitol. From there, gospel songs, spirited pleas and chants ensued. The state chapter of the NAACP, the event’s organizers, says the point was that Tennesseans without health care could die if Medicaid isn’t extended to more residents. According to the group, the vast majority of uninsured Tennesseans are African-American, totaling around 118,000 residents. Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s still in talks with federal officials over whether he’ll expand the state’s Medicaid program as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act.

Alexander touts proposed changes to federal financial aid programs (N-S/Boehnke)

Sen. Lamar Alexander, two weeks away from his bid for re-election, stopped at Pellissippi State Community College Tuesday to host a panel on the current federal financial aid system and to tout his proposal to streamline the application process. The senator, in front of an audience of mostly educators, held up a ream of paper with the free application for federal student aid, or FAFSA, printed on it. The application was so lengthy it piled onto the floor and Alexander declared the current FAFSA form a cumbersome process that is discouraging students from applying to college. “This is discouraging students who might otherwise take advantage of Gov. (Bill) Haslam’s Tennessee Promise,” he added.

Alexander met with Carr, but endorsement didn’t follow (Daily News Journal)

They met at a Cracker Barrel in Smyrna. They had coffee for about an hour. At some point, they talked about a possible endorsement. It was Sen. Lamar Alexander and Joe Carr, the Lascassas Republican state representative and former tea party opponent of Alexander. Carr has refrained from endorsing the two-term senator even as other tea party Republicans have. “I told him I would welcome his endorsement and would like to have it,” Alexander said of their September visit, which his team had initiated. “I gave him my personal email and my personal telephone number. Our staff has met with him since then and would be glad to meet with him again if he would like to do it.”

Gordon Ball launches bus tour in US Senate race (Associated Press)

Democratic Senate candidate Gordon Ball is kicking off a bus tour around Tennessee on Wednesday that he hopes will draw attention to incumbent Republican Lamar Alexander’s refusal to engage in a series of statewide debates. Ball, a Knoxville attorney, has dubbed it the “No Show Lamar Bus Tour,” and says the stops will feature a costumed chicken dressed in a plaid shirt. The shirt is an Alexander trademark from his first successful bid for governor in the 1970s. Ball’s bus tour is holding three events in Nashville Wednesday, and the Democratic nominee is scheduled to attend a debate on Thursday with several independent Senate candidates. Alexander is not expected to attend. Ball and Alexander’s lone joint appearance of the race came at a Farm Bureau forum in Cookeville last week.

Ball owes $46,000 in fees on South Carolina resort property (News-Sentinel/Collins)

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Gordon Ball owes more than $46,000 in fees on property he owns in a resort near Hilton Head, S.C., and two entities have filed liens on the property in an attempt to get him to pay up, according to public records. Ball, a millionaire attorney who is challenging Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander in the Nov. 4 election, also paid more than $15,000 in back taxes last month on a condominium in Destin, Fla., and still owes $2,100 in delinquent taxes on another condo in Destin, according to tax records in Florida. Ball acknowledged during an interview Tuesday he hasn’t paid the fees on the South Carolina property, which he said help pay for maintenance at the resort.

Griffith, Roe to host heath roundtable (Bristol Herald-Courier)

U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Virginia, and U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, will co-host a roundtable discussion on how to accelerate the pace of patient treatment. The event will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic medicine in Blacksburg, according to a written statement. The event is part of the 21st Century Cures initiative, which was launched in May by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which Griffith serves. Other participants include: Bob Meyer, of the University of Virginia Health System, Karen Rheuban, of UVa, Maciek Sasinowski, of Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Jeff Gallager of Virginia BIO, Michael Matthews of Healtheway, Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, of the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Rob Gourdie of Virginia Tech Carillion Research Institute, Stephen Morgan of Carillion and others.

Nashville veterans received inferior VA stroke care (Tennessean/Wilemon)

Stroke patients at the VA hospitals in Nashville and Murfreesboro received inferior care and administrators failed to properly investigate deaths that occurred during surgery, a critical new audit of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System has found. Juan Morales, the director of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, agreed with the Office of Inspector General’s findings and submitted an action plan to correct the problems. But the audit is the latest in a series of alarming reports about the care veterans receive in Middle Tennessee. It comes on the heels of another OIG report released last month that pointed out problems with primary care. The hospital system had already admitted some of the longest wait times in the nation for veterans to see specialists.





Editorial: Nov. 4 races veer into odd twists, turns (Daily News Journal)

Only a few days remain before the Nov. 4 election, and races for federal offices are continuing to take some interesting twists and turns. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican, successfully countered a challenge from state Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas, a tea party adherent, in the GOP primary and seemed well on his way to re-election. He does face opposition from Democratic nominee Gordon Ball, a Knoxville attorney, along with several independent candidates, but in the GOP efforts to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, no one seems to be losing any sleep about retention of the Tennessee seat. Alexander, however, in a recent ad decided to launch an attack on Ball that lacked somewhat the notion of the former governor, University of Tennessee president and former U.S. secretary of education as a statesman.