January 26 TN News Digest

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

Haslam making 6 more stops this week on Insure Tenn. tour (Associated Press)
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is making six more stops around the state to promote his Insure Tennessee plan to extend health coverage to more than 200,000 low-income people. Haslam kicked off his tour last week at hospitals in Jackson and Memphis. He starts this week’s series of events on Monday at Cherokee Health System. On Tuesday, the governor heads to Walker Comprehensive Health Center in Clarksville, followed by a discussion at Cherokee Health Systems in Chattanooga on Wednesday. Haslam wraps up the statewide swing on Thursday, with visits to Johnson City Community Health Center, Highlands Medical Center in Sparta and the Primary Care and Hope Clinic in Murfreesboro. The governor has called a special session on his health care proposal that begins on Feb. 2.

Tennessee reaches record low for accidental fire deaths (Tennessean/Barnes)
Fewer people died in Tennessee from accidental fire-related incidents in 2014 than any other year in recorded history, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office. In 2014 state fire records show that 72 accidental fire deaths occurred in Tennessee, compared with 98 similar fire fatalities in 2013. The 2014 figure represents a 27 percent year-to-year decrease compared to 2013 and a 51 percent decrease compared to 2003’s 146 fire fatalities, which is the highest total for fire-related deaths in the previous 14-year sample period. However, final fire fatality figures for 2014 are still pending.

TN colleges to fight sexual violence together this week (Tennessean/Tamburin)
More than 70 Tennessee colleges — including Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee and Middle Tennessee State University — are meeting in Nashville this week in hopes of combating the threat of sexual violence on their campuses. The two-day summit, to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday, will bring local college staffers together with national experts on sexual and domestic violence, according to a statement released Monday.

Tenn. colleges to hold summit on sexual assault (Knox News-Sentinel/Boehnke)
Police officers, counselors and educators from 76 public and private colleges across the state will descend on Tennessee State University in Nashville on Tuesday for a two-day summit on campus sexual assault. Combining their efforts will allow the schools to learn from each other while also attracting national speakers and sharing the event’s roughly $40,000 costs, leaders from each of the state’s major higher education systems said last week. “We believe students have every right to expect to be safe on our campus,” UT President Joe DiPietro said Thursday in a conference call with reporters.

Getting a handle on health care leadership (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Roark)
Leaders and future leaders of business spent at least some of their weekend throwing a plastic frog around in a circle. “These people run million dollar companies, and they’re down there being goofy,” Kate Atchley, executive director of the University of Tennessee’s executive Master of Business Administration program, said. “I love that.” Healthcare Leadership is the newest track of UT’s executive MBA program, and has students from 13 states and nine countries. The class inaugurated the program with team-building and problem-solving exercises Saturday in the Haslam Business Building on UT’s Knoxville campus.

State proposes to close some trails in Old Forest (Commercial Appeal)
The State of Tennessee proposes to close within the Old Forest of Overton Park some trails that are dead-end, “redundant” or consistently used for illegal activities. The trail closings are among proposals in the draft management plan for the Old Forest State Natural Area. A public meeting to receive citizen response to the draft plan, and to gather other comments, drew about 35 people Saturday morning at the Parkview Retirement Community next to the park, said Tina Sullivan, executive director of the Overton Park Conservancy.

Lawmaker caught in Insure Tennessee crossfire (Knox News-Sentinel/Humphrey)
A group supporting Gov. Bill Haslam in his efforts to win legislative approval of a modified Medicaid expansion plan is defending state Rep. Kevin Brooks in radio ads after the Bradley County Republican was attacked for supporting the proposal by a group opposing the governor’s efforts. The radio ads both declare dislike of Obamacare, the increasingly popular name for the Affordable Care Act that generally has been unpopular in polling of Tennesseans. The difference is that Americans for Prosperity, opposing Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” proposal, says the governor’s program amounts to backing the Obamacare “disaster.”

Green’s proposals would not expand Medicaid (Leaf Chronicle)
Sen. Mark Green has never expressed support for Insure Tennessee, the proposal to expand Medicaid that will be the subject of a special session of the General Assembly next week. Green moved quickly Sunday to clarify his position in reaction to a report in The Leaf-Chronicle’s print and online editions which he said “conveyed an inaccurate message.” The Leaf Chronicle’s online version of the story was headlined, “Sen. Green formulating option if Insure Tennessee fails.” The report inaccurately stated that Green, R-Clarksville, had a backup legislative proposal to expand Medicaid should the much-discussed plan of Gov. Bill Haslam fail to gain support in the General Assembly.

Lobbyists spent record amount of $725K last year (Associated Press)
Records from the Tennessee Ethics Commission show organizations lobbying the state Legislature spent a record $725,000 on 96 “wining and dining” events for lawmakers last year. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the 2014 spending — precisely $724,982 — compares to $650,873 in spending a year earlier and $565,318 in 2012. Under a law enacted in 2006 during a special legislative session on governmental ethics, lobbyists and their employers are generally prohibited from making gifts to legislators. But there are exceptions, including events to which all members of the Legislature are invited.

Y-12 planning to acquire thousands of tons of uranium (News-Sentinel/Munger)
Y-12 is known as the “Fort Knox of Uranium” and houses the nation’s largest stockpile of highly enriched uranium, but the nuclear weapons plant is actually trying to acquire more uranium — thousands of tons of high-purity depleted uranium — for use in its production missions. Depleted uranium is uranium stock that has lower-than-natural amounts of U-235, the fissionable isotope. It’s often a byproduct of uranium-enrichment processes that extract U-235 and concentrate it for use in reactor fuel and other products. High-purity stocks would be largely free of any other metals or chemical contaminants.

OPINION

Editorial: The case for Fort Campbell (Leaf Chronicle)
Fort Campbell’s neighboring communities stood loud and proud last Tuesday in support of keeping the post, our military and our regional economy strong and stable. The large turnout, intense engagement and unified messaging at the Army listening session spoke volumes about the depth of local support for Fort Campbell. Moreover, the event – part pep rally, part dissertation – was a celebration of our community’s unique intergration with Army life, and served to energize and galvanize our collective spirit for a long, hard fight. But the challenge remains.