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TN Senate Dems Call Out Haslam for Not Expanding Medicaid With End of CoverTN

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; November 27, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today’s announcement that 15,400 Tennesseans will lose their health insurance follows three missed opportunities by Gov. Bill Haslam to avoid it.

“Governor Haslam has had three opportunities to make the new health law work for the benefit of Tennessee families,” House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh said. “Instead, he neglected his responsibility, and thousands of Tennesseans will lose their health insurance after Christmas.”

Gov. Haslam decided last year that Tennessee would not participate in defining the minimum coverage offered by health insurance policies known as “essential health benefits.” He left it to the federal government. He then opted not to establish a state-run exchange, defaulting to healthcare.gov for the purchase of private health insurance policies. More recently, the Governor has declined to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid for working families, a program which would provide basic health care services to thousands of working people across the state. Instead, millions of dollars will go to other states.

What’s more, the Governor could decide to continue CoverTN for one year under the ruling from the Department of Commerce and Insurance that allows health care plans not meeting essential health benefits to be extended for one year.

“The Governor has been given multiple opportunities to influence a health care program for the benefit of small businesses and families across Tennessee,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney. “Unfortunately, inaction has only resulted in a loss of coverage, which will only lead to less health care, poorer health and higher premiums for Tennesseans.”

Finney cited a recent study by the RAND Corporation showing that states that did not expand Medicaid were expected to see premiums increase as much as 10 percent for remaining policyholders.

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Gilmore Receives ‘Elected Women in Excellence’ Award

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; November 26, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Rep. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) was honored with the Elected Women in Excellence Award at the National Foundation of Women Legislators Capital Forum in Washington, DC. Rep. Gilmore was one of only ten legislators in the nation to receive the honor.

“I am honored to receive this award from such a prestigious organization dedicated to helping women legislators be the best public servants they can be,” said Rep. Gilmore. “My goal has always been to be the advocate and representative my constituents deserve, and I am humbled to have been recognized for these efforts.”

Rep. Gilmore received the award on Thursday, November 21st at the NFWL Capital Forum. The conference also celebrated the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the National Order of Women Legislators.

About the National Federation of Women Legislators:

The mission of the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL) is to provide strategic resources to women leaders for leadership development and effective governance through conferences, seminars, education materials, professional and personal relationships, and networking at both the state and federal levels.

NFWL is a non-partisan 501c-3, educational foundation. Its membership consists of members of the National Order of Women Legislators (all current and former women elected officials), corporate leadership, and association members.

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TN House Dems: GOP Policies Causing TN Workers to be ‘Left Behind’ in Economic Recovery

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; November 22, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (11/22/13) – Figures released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Tennessee has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. At 8.4%, Tennessee is tied for 42nd in unemployment.

“Unfortunately for Tennesseans, the Republicans are winning their war on working people,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Nashville). “The GOP promised that if we gutted worker and consumer protections that we would become an oasis of job creation. Instead, our workers are being left behind in an economic recovery that has led to lower unemployment numbers in most other states.”

Tennessee’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained stagnant at 8.4% in October while 28 other states saw decreases in their unemployment. Earlier this month, Tennessee’s Comptroller released a scathing report indicating that the Haslam administration failed to adequately account for billions of dollars in tax dollars that were supposed to go towards job creation.

“In spite of billions of dollars in giveaways to large corporations, too many Tennesseans are struggling to find a good job,” said Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville). “In a little over a month it will get even worse when Governor Haslam’s refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion will result in thousands of jobs and billions of dollars lost in Tennessee.”

According to a University of Memphis study, If Governor Haslam does not expand Medicaid, Tennessee’s economy will lose out on $10.5 billion in federal funds and 18,000 jobs over the next five years.

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Finney Drafts Legislation With ‘Standard of Ethics’ for State Contracts

Press release from TN Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney; November 20, 2013:

NASHVILLE – State Sen. Lowe Finney has drafted legislation that will stop any state agency from entering a contract that allows a contractor to profit from its own recommendations.

“This bill stops companies from profiting from their own recommendations, as we’ve seen in the state’s building management contracts,” Sen. Finney said. “This bill sets a standard of ethics and protects taxpayers.”

The bill follows an audit by the state comptroller’s office that found flaws in the way the Department of General Services handled its contract with Jones Lang LaSalle for facility assessments, master planning and facility management services.

Auditors found that in two cases, the state’s contract with that company created organizational conflicts of interest where the contractor could profit from its own recommendations to the state.

The standards set forth in the legislation would put Tennessee in line with federal contract standards.

“The ideas of saving taxpayer dollars and having a standard of ethics on conflicts of interest are not mutually exclusive,” Sen. Finney said.

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Kyle: Haslam Should Reconsider Shoring Up Head Start, Meals on Wheels w/ State Funds

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; October 17, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Now that Gov. Haslam has changed his position on using state dollars to make up federal funds lost during Washington’s budget crises, state Sen. Jim Kyle urged Gov. Haslam to revisit his position to allow sequestration cuts that reduce the availability of services like Head Start and Meals on Wheels.

“The governor is to be congratulated for his efforts to shore up our tourism industry as our state faced a catastrophic loss of funding for national parks during the shutdown,” Sen. Kyle said. “However, thousands of Tennessee families are still going hungry because of Washington’s dysfunction, and I am calling on the governor to take another look at the impact of cuts to Head Start and Meals on Wheels.

Several programs for the poor have steadily lost federal funding this year because of the sequestration cuts. Meals on Wheels has lost at least $1 million, and 1,200 children have lost seats in Head Start programs.

Last year, Gov. Haslam said he was unequivocally against using state dollars to make up the difference. On Nov. 20, he told the Nashville City Paper:

“In most of those cases when the federal money is taken away, the program that it’s funding will go away as well because we just literally, don’t have the state dollars to come in and replace all those federal dollars,” Haslam said.

“Now that the governor has changed his position, state leaders have a duty to working families and retired veterans who will continue to suffer due to Washington’s dysfunction, even after the shutdown ends,” Sen. Kyle said. “I am calling on the governor to revisit these programs and change his position.”

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Gilmore Named VP of Women’s Legislative Network

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; August 22, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (August 22, 2013) – State Representative Brenda Gilmore (D-54) was elected to serve as Vice President of the Women’s Legislative Network at the National Conference of State Legislature’s annual Legislative Summit in Atlanta on August 14, 2013.

“I am humbled and grateful to have received the support of a bi-partisan group of women legislators from around the country,” said Rep. Gilmore. “We have a long way to go in our state and in the country as a whole until women have equal representation in our legislative bodies. As Vice President of the Women’s Legislative Network, I hope to work with fellow female legislators across the country to ensure our voices are heard when it comes time to drafting and passing laws that impact all of us.”

The Women’s Legislative Network was formally organized in 1985 at the Annual Meeting of NCSL in Seattle. The Women’s Legislative Network focuses on issues unique to women, as well as trainings to help women legislators better communicate with their constituents. Rep. Gilmore will serve in this role until the next NCSL Legislative Summit in 2014.

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TN House Dems Mourn Passing of State Rep. Lois DeBerry

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; July 28, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Speaker Pro Tempore Emeritus Lois DeBerry passed away today from complications resulting from a four year battle with pancreatic cancer. In the years following her diagnosis, Speaker Pro Tem Emeritus DeBerry remained positive and upbeat while channeling her energy and passion into helping raise the awareness of this deadly disease.

Rep. DeBerry defied the odds which show that nearly 80% of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer succumb to the disease within the first year. In 2012, three years after her initial diagnosis, DeBerry joined with Governor Haslam in proclaiming November to be Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month in order to promote awareness and support efforts to create better treatments for this aggressive form of cancer.

“Tennessee owes Lois DeBerry a debt of gratitude for her immeasurable contributions to improving the health, welfare, and well-being of the people of our state,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “Lois was an irreplaceable member of our caucus and she will always have a place in our hearts and memories.”

In May of 2011, the legislature passed House Joint Resolution 516, sponsored by Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh, which named honored Rep. DeBerry with the title of “Speaker Pro Tempore Emeritus.” In accepting the honor of the position, DeBerry told her colleagues that “I’ve never done anything to get a return, every decision that I’ve tried make came from my heart.”

Through her status as Dean of the House, Speaker Pro Tem DeBerry acted as a mentor and leader for many legislators over her forty years of service to the state.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from and work with Rep. DeBerry,” said Rep. Karen Camper. “When I first got elected she took me under her wing and helped teach me how to best represent the needs of my constituents. I know there were many other legislators like me over the years, both Democrat and Republican, who benefited from her wisdom and generosity. I am truly blessed to have known and worked with Rep. Lois DeBerry.”

In memory of Rep. DeBerry, donations can be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network at www.pancan.org.

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TNHDC Thank Sen. Henry for Long Years of Service in General Assembly

Statement from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; May 8, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee House Democratic Caucus released the following statement on the news that Sen. Douglas Henry (D-21) will end his many years of service as a legislator after next year.

“Sen. Douglas Henry is the type of legislator we all aspire to be.

“Through numerous administrations and changes in leadership, Sen. Henry has remained a stalwart advocate for fiscal responsibility and Tennessee values.

“There is no greater champion for the State of Tennessee than Sen. Henry. He maintains a great affection for this great state which shines through in everything he does.

“While his decision means he will no longer serve as a legislator after this session, we are confident that he will maintain a leadership role in the Democratic Party and the State of Tennessee for many years to come.

“We thank Sen. Henry for his many years of dedicated service to our party and the people of Tennessee. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

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VIDEO: Fitzhugh: Haslam ‘Failed to Deliver’ on Medicaid Expansion

Statement from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; March 27, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh has released the following video statement in response to Governor Haslam’s decision to not participate in the Medicaid expansion:

Earlier today, Governor Haslam announced Tennessee would turn down over $10 billion and not participate in Medicaid Expansion. This shocking decision comes after business groups, hospital associations, doctors, nurses, civic and faith leaders joined together to work with the Governor on this critical decision that impacts our citizens and our economy.

I truly believed that the governor was going to use this opportunity to show real leadership. Instead we’ve seen more of the hand-wringing and delayed action that we’ve become accustomed to.

Here are the facts.

300,000 Tennesseans will now be denied access to quality, affordable health care coverage; Coverage that wouldn’t have cost Tennessee taxpayers a dime for the first 3 years.

Estimates show that 90,000 jobs may be lost, and dozens of our rural hospitals are at risk of closing – leaving as many as 21 counties without a hospital altogether!

Tennessee’s economy will suffer as billions in federal dollars leave our state and go to California, New York and other states that have agreed to participate in Medicaid Expansion.

All of that says nothing about the moral obligation that we have as lawmakers to ensure the health and well-being of the least among us.

Governor Haslam says he is working on a “Tennessee Plan” to address these concerns. However, his announcement today came with few details and even fewer certainties for the hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans who have been counting on the governor to do the right thing.

While I hope that the Governor is serious about working with the federal government to create an alternative plan, past experience makes me question the sincerity of these efforts.

All too often with this administration, we have the Governor study, and study, and study an issue, only to come back later and say “no”.

My friends today is an illustration of why it matters who governs and this Governor has failed to deliver for the people of Tennessee. Our hearts go out to the thousands of people across this state who will suffer as a result of this decision. It is my hope and fervent prayer that in the future we can find a way to care for the least among us when they need it the most.

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Senate Dems: Haslam Plan ‘No Solution’ for Uninsured, Rural Hospitals

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; March 27, 2013:

‘Tennessee Plan’ leaves uninsured, rural hospitals with no solution

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Gov. Bill Halsam promised a decision on expanding Medicaid today, but instead delivered a “no” dressed up as a year of delayed action and indecision.

“We expected clarity today on Medicaid, but all we got was confusion,” Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Sen. Lowe Finney said. “Our rural hospitals and the uninsured will be the ones to suffer.”

The governor gave a definitive “no” on expanding Medicaid. He instead pitched a so-called “Tennessee plan,” but it’s unclear whether the plan will work. Meanwhile, federal payments to hospitals for uncompensated care will end Jan. 1.

“This is a time when the people of Tennessee need clear, precise and bold leadership, and Governor Haslam offered none of that today,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said. “It’s a failure of our moral obligation to protect the health and welfare of the most vulnerable among us. It’s a failure that will be paid with the lives of the working poor in our state – this is quite simply shameful.”

According to the Tennessee Hospital Association, the projected statewide job loss without the Medicaid expansion will be 90,000 jobs. In addition, they estimate that there will be an economic loss to the state of nearly $13 billion.

“I truly believed that the governor was going to use this opportunity to show real leadership,” House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh said. “Instead we’ve seen more of the hand-wringing and delayed action that we’ve become accustomed to. Lives will be lost while we wait for a real decision.”

Hospital administrators, health care advocates, chambers of commerce, mayors of cities both big and small, and many others have implored the governor over the past year to expand Medicaid.

“The governor made this decision in a vacuum without consulting leaders from either party,” Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle said. “We’ve heard from a broad coalition of groups who will suffer if we don’t expand Medicaid, and apparently their concerns fell on deaf ears.

“It matters who governs.”