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.