Memphis, Shelby mayors present legislative wish list (including Medicaid expansion)

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Memphis Mayor A C Wharton presented a joint wish list for the 2014 session of the General Assembly on Friday to the Shelby County legislative delegation, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Wharton’s and Luttrell’s joint agenda focused on giving local government new tools to fight commercial-scale waste dumping and abandoned property.

The mayors want the legislature to make it a felony offense to dump waste either weighing over 100 pounds or measuring at least 30 cubic feet. Wharton said the crime is now only a misdemeanor and when people are caught, they view paying fines as a cost of business.

They also asked for strengthening state nuisance statutes to make it easier for communities to tackle gang activity at the neighborhood level, through court-ordered injunctions.

Wharton proposed, separately, legislation that would allow courts to “extinguish,” or dismiss, uncollected delinquent tax and other liens on abandoned blighted property, with a goal of making it easier to sell the property to new owners who will clean it up.

Wharton and Luttrell also asked for expansion of state funding for pre-kindergarten classes, for job training programs at Southwest Tennessee Community College and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Memphis, for health programs to reduce infant deaths, and for local biomedical research and entrepreneurship efforts.

…Both mayors said they’re concerned that the Regional Medical Center at Memphis will lose millions of dollars in revenue if the state doesn’t participate in some way in Medicaid expansion, which the federal government will fully fund for three years starting Jan. 1, then phase down to 90 percent by 2020.

“Our major concern is the impact on the Regional Medical Center,” Luttrell told legislators. “Four years ago, it was on the brink of major financial issues. Under Dr. Reginald Coopwood (the Med’s CEO), it has turned around. But with the Affordable Care Act, revenue streams the hospital relies on are no longer there. Folks, we in Shelby County cannot afford to lose the Regional Medical Center.”