Monthly Archives: February 2014

Haslam says he would welcome Christie to TN — maybe later this year

Excerpt from a post on CNN’s politics blog:

Two Republican governors up for re-election this year said Monday they would appear publicly with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie if he came to their states and helped them campaign.

Gov. Nikki Haley, who lives in the crucial presidential primary state of South Carolina, said there are no plans in the books for Christie–the chairman of the Republican Governors Association–to come to her state, but added she expects a visit “at some point.”

“I would be incredibly proud to let everybody know that he supports (me), as well as say he’s my friend,” Haley said a press conference for the RGA at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, adding that she would be happy to appear with any of her fellow Republican governors.

The RGA chairman usually speaks at the RGA press conference, but Christie left Washington early to celebrate his daughter’s birthday and prepare for his major budget address Tuesday. His lack of presence, however, fueled speculation that he didn’t want to face questions about the traffic scandal that has roiled his administration.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam also said he would appear with Christie.

“If Chris made it down, we would love to have him,” he said. “He’s actually talked about coming to Tennessee sometime this summer or fall, but there’s no definite plan now.”

On the ‘Stop Obamacare Act’ – aka ‘Handcuff Haslam’

There’s a rather striking difference in these two reaction press releases following the House vote to require legislative approval of any Medicaid expansion in Tennessee is hereby presented. (Previous post just below or HERE.)

One is from Americans For Prosperity, a Washington-based conservative lobbying organization which gets funding from the famous Koch brothers and describes itself as advocating “public policies that champion the principles of entrepreneurship and fiscal and regulatory restraint.”

The other is from the House Democratic Caucus.
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House votes to mandate governor get legislative approval for any Medicaid expansion

The state House of Representatives approved a bill Monday night requiring Gov. Bill Haslam to win legislative approval before expanding Medicaid to more working poor, as provided under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Further from The Commercial Appeal:

Democrats charged that the bill (HB937), pushed by majority Republicans, sends a message that the General Assembly “doesn’t trust” the Republican governor, who is negotiation with the Obama administration over a Haslam proposal to let Tennessee use billions of dollars in federal Medicaid money to buy health coverage for those eligible through the private insurance markets rather than directly through Medicaid.

But under questioning, the House sponsor, Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, acknowledged that the bill is a compromise with the Haslam administration because his original bill would have banned outright any Medicaid expansion in Tennessee

“This is the language that we agreed on — that they would stop opposing this legislation. The governor has already said he would ask the legislature for approval,” Durham said.

The bill, which won a party line 69-24 vote, now goes to the Senate where it’s awaiting a floor vote there.

Republicans defeated a series of amendments from Democrats, including one by House Democratic Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley that would expand Medicaid but only through 2016 while the federal government is paying 100 percent of the costs of expansion.

Also, here are a couple of quotes from an AP story:
“The last thing we want to do is automatically approve something the federal government does,” said Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, the bill’s main House sponsor.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh criticized the measure as counterproductive.

“This General Assembly has tied the hands of its governor,” said Fitzhugh, D-Ripley. “It sends a message that we don’t trust this governor, and don’t trust him to negotiate in good faith a deal … that is in the best interest of Tennessee.”

UT Sex Week condemnation passes House over Democrat protests

A resolution condemning the University of Tennessee Sex Week as “an atrocious event” and “an outrageous misuse of student fees and grant monies” was approved by the House Monday night over protests of some Democrats that students’ rights were being ignored.

The measure passed on a 69-17 vote with other representatives taking no position one way or the other. It now goes to the Senate.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin said during debate that if UT officials ignore HJR661, which amounts to an expression of opinion with no legal impact, “There may be stronger actions coming from this body.”

Still pending in the Legislature are measures to put new restrictions on the use of UT student fees that could impact funding of UT Sex Week, scheduled on the Knoxville campus next week and including, according to the resolution, “an aphrodisiac cooking class, drag show, and condom scavenger hunt.”

As originally drafted by Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, the sponsor, the resolution condemned the UT administration. That was amended to instead condemn “organizers” of the event.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville told Floyd that was effectively “condemning their First Amendment rights.”

“I support First Amendment rights,” replied Floyd. “But you don’t have a right to drag the UT-K brand and the thousands of students and the thousands of alumni of that institution through the mud.”

Knoxville’s two Democratic representatives, Joe Armstrong and Gloria Johnson, both spoke against the resolution.

Armstrong, whose district includes the Knoxville campus, said he has heard from “numerous” students who believe “we are stepping on their rights.”

“We should not try to dictate to our next generation,” Armstrong said, recalling UT has a long history of hearing conflicting views on issues dating back to the Vietnam War, and should instead “give them the knowledge to let them decide.”

Johnson said most UT students are adults, over the age of 18, and “We shouldn’t treat them as children.”

Further, Johnson said, publicity about Sex Week has generally ignored that it includes “meetings about abstinence, about appropriate relationship and about (preventing) domestic violence.”

Several Republican lawmakers, said the issue was one of spending public money for a program many taxpayers find offensive.

“This is nothing more than asking an adult to act like an adult and take charge of the situation,” said Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett, “We’re paying the bills and they ought to understand that.”

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he has a 17-year-old daughter soon to attend UT and “it irritates me a little bit” to see funds going toward “something that is offensive to a lot of parents.”

“They call them student fees, but they are parent fees,” McCormick said, adding that free speech also sometimes means “you’ve got to shout those people down.”
“I defy anyone to say that Sex Week is good,” said Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, further contending that free works both ways.

“The taxpayer also has the right to express condemnation of that free speech that exceeds the bounds,” he said.

‘Merry Christmas bill’ clears Senate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would protect schools from lawsuits for allowing traditional winter celebrations, or religious displays, has passed the Senate.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville (SB1425 ) was unanimously approved 30-0 on Monday.

The legislation says schools can display scenes or symbols associated with such celebrations on school property, if the display includes more than one religion, or one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol. Messages that encourage adherence to a particular religious belief are prohibited.

The proposal also allows students and school staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, such as “Merry Christmas,” ”Happy Hanukkah” and “Happy holidays.”

Campfield says some groups have threatened to sue over such displays and greetings, and his bill would protect schools.

If not going all the way toward medical marijuana, then maybe…

Legislation to legalize medical marijuana is almost certainly dead in the Tennessee legislature this year, but the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle says there may be a better chance for authorizing marijuana derivative drug used in treating gravely ill children.

In Tennessee, the public fight for medical marijuana has coalesced around children suffering from severe epileptic conditions such as Dravet syndrome.
But the focus on those conditions and on the marijuana derivative used to control epileptic seizures is problematic. The active component of the cannabis plant and the type of treatment involved are so different from other forms of marijuana that the “medical marijuana” tag seems as ill-suited as calling novocaine “medical cocaine.”

The controversial treatment involves the use of a marijuana derivative called cannabidiol, or CBD, most commonly used as an oil administered with food. The oil is made from a strain of marijuana that is low (from 0.5 to 1 percent) in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component of marijuana that causes users to feel “high.”

…State Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, also a physician…doesn’t dismiss the possible therapeutic aspects of medical marijuana out-of-hand, but said the lack of clinical evidence is a problem.

“We know that medical marijuana does help with certain types of seizures,” Green said, “and it does help with pain, particularly neuropathic pain, and some PTSD patients have responded well with marijuana, but we don’t have reliable data. We have anecdotal data. We need more than that.

“The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) needs to dig in on this. Cannabis oil and other forms of this drug need to be researched. We need better studies on all medical applications, with clinical trials so that we can get a better idea of what we’re dealing with.”

That process has begun, but too recently for any kind of confirmation. The FDA approved CBD for use in a childhood epilepsy study in October. A British company, GW Pharmaceuticals, announced in November that the FDA had granted an “orphan drug” designation for Epidiolex, a product for use in treating Dravet syndrome that contains plant-derived CBD as its active ingredient.

On Friday, another important milestone was reached when the largest epilepsy advocacy organization, the Epilepsy Foundation, came out in support of access to medical marijuana and called for an end to Drug Enforcement Administration restrictions on clinical trials, stating that effective treatment for seizures “should not be determined by one’s zip code.”

…Acknowledging the reality of a long fight, some CBD supporters wonder if it wouldn’t be better to split off CBD oil from the larger medical marijuana legislation.

Some advocates are leery of a piecemeal approach weakening the whole effort, but Patton said, “Yes, we’re looking at that.”

“There is a senator who has a caption bill open, and we are trying to get a dialogue going on that. We are in discussions about that right now.”

Note: Apparently, the “caption bill” in question is HB2461, filed by Sen. Todd Gardenhire and Rep. Mike Carter, both Republicans from the Chattanooga area. It’s on notice in Senate Judiciary Committee this week, where an amendment could transform it. Or not.
Here’s a quote from Carter — just before the filing deadline — in a recent Chattanooga TFP story:
“I am considering and looking at filing a bill that allows a parent to have cannabidiol oils in their possession for the use with a person of intractable seizures as determined by a doctor,” the Ooltewah Republican and former judge said. “And you can’t get high on it.”

Haslam to Sebelius: You come up with a new Medicaid expansion plan and pitch it to me

From Michael Collins:
WASHINGTON — Gov. Bill Haslam has asked U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to come up with a proposal that would give Tennessee more flexibility to expand Medicaid coverage.

Haslam, who was in Washington over the weekend for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, said he talked with Sebelius on Sunday and again Monday about what the state needs to expand Medicaid.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about what won’t work,” Haslam said Monday. “I said, ‘You know what we need to make a plan work. Why don’t you come back to us with a proposal that will work?’ And that’s where we left it.”

Sebelius promised that federal officials would be back in touch with the state soon, Haslam said.

“Obviously, they’ve got some things they have to work through as well, and they are talking with other states,” Haslam said. “But we agreed that was the right next step.”

Tennessee has been in negotiations for several months with Health and Human Services in hopes of reaching a deal to cut the cost of expanding Medicaid, which is a key component of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Under the health care reform law, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the expansion costs in the first three years, with that amount dropping to 90 percent by 2020. The state would have to pay the other 10 percent.

Tennessee is one of two dozen states that haven’t expanded coverage.

Haslam wants to be able to use the federal expansion money to buy private insurance for those covered, require co-payments for some people and change the payment system to be based more on successful outcome of treatments.

After his meetings with Sebelius, “they understand what we need to make it work,” Haslam said. “And we understand a lot more clearly, I think, than we did the things from their side that won’t work.”

Asked if he felt confident a deal could be reached after his discussions with Sebelius, Haslam said he needs to see what kind of proposal the administration brings back to the state.

TN Republican Party hires staff for minority recruitment effort

News release from Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Following the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee conducted a top-to-bottom review of the Party’s infrastructure and political activities across the nation. It quickly became apparent too little was done in terms of outreach to communities beyond the traditional GOP base. 
With more Republicans running for office in 2014 than ever before, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney today officially unveiled the TNGOP’s statewide Engagement Director, as well as the new team of Regional Political Directors responsible for organizing and implementing the 2014 Republican victory plan.
Victor Evans, a former teacher and Rhodes College graduate with a Masters from Christian Brothers University in Memphis, joins the TNGOP as its Engagement Director. His responsibilities include enlisting support from the African-American, Latino, and other minority communities across Tennessee. Evans will also direct the TNGOP’s Global Engagement Team, which has already been actively working in Nashville to grow minority support.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus applauded the move and stated, “Victor Evans brings valuable skills and experiences to the Republican Party. He will play a critical role in strengthening our ties to all Tennessee voters.  His hire will ensure our positive vision for the country and our message of ‘opportunity for all’ reaches across the state.” 
Devaney remarked,  “Victor understands we have a lot of ground to make up in communities across Tennessee—and he’s helping to lead the effort. We will compete for every voter across the Volunteer State. Whether it is educational opportunities for all students or fighting for adults who need a job now, we’re the Party of opportunity. Victor will be instrumental in communicating that message for all in 2014.”
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List of bills signed into law this year, through Feb. 20

A list of bills signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam, as of February 20, as reported by the governor’s office:

HB 1402:

This bill codifies the acts of the 2013 legislative session.

Passed House 97-1; Passed Senate 32-0

SB 1509:

This is a Comptroller’s bill…

Passed House 95-2; Passed Senate 32-0

SB 1526:

This bill extends the sunset date of the Board of Law Examiners to June 30, 2020.

Passed House 95-0; Passed Senate 32-0

SB 1540:

This bill extends the sunset date of the Energy Efficient Schools Council to June 30, 2019.

Passed House 95-0, Passed Senate 33-0

SB 1541:

This bill extends the sunset date of the Four Lake Regional Industrial Development Authority to June 30, 2018.

Passed House 95-0; Passed Senate 33-0

SB 1544:

This bill extends the sunset date of the Interstate Mining Compact to June 30, 2018.

Passed House 95-0; Passed Senate 32-0

SB 1545:

This bill extends the sunset date of the Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact to June 30, 2018.

Passed House 95-0; Passed Senate 32-0

SB 1552:

This bill extends the sunset date of the School Bond Authority to June 30, 2022.

Passed House 95-0; Passed Senate 32-0

SB 1557:

This bill extends the sunset date of the State Library Commission to June 30, 2020.

Passed House 95-0; Passed Senate 33-0

SB 1577:

This bill extends the sunset date of the Tennessee Public Television Council to June 30, 2019.

Passed House 95-0; Passed Senate 33-0

SB 1700:

This bill amends the “guns in parking lots” law that was passed last year relative to transporting and storing a firearm…

Passed House 89-5, present not voting-1; Passed Senate 32-0

As of February 14, 2014

SB 1404:

This bill amends the charter of the City of Gallatin…

Passed House 95-0, present not voting-1; Passed Senate 31-0

SB 1320:

This bill allows a county election commission to consolidate one or more polling places…

Passed Senate 27-0; Amended Bill Passed House 95-0; Senate concurred in House Amendment

SB 477:

This bill allows students who enter the military or national guard during high school and who complete basic training before graduation to receive credits towards graduation.

Passed House 98-0; Passed Senate 32-0

HB 791:

This bill extends the industrial development division, building finance committee to June 30, 2014.

Passed House 93-0; Passed Senate 32-0

AP story on rape kits legislation

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With possibly hundreds of thousands of rape kits untested across the country, a number of states are proposing legislation to address backlogs that in at least one case dates back nearly three decades.

In Memphis, Tenn., alone, there are more than 12,000 untested rape kits going back to the 1980s, according to the New York-based Rape Kit Action Project, which has been tracking the backlogs nationwide. In the entire state of Texas, there are about 16,000 untested kits collecting dust in police evidence rooms.

Tennessee is among at least 17 states with proposals that range from requiring law enforcement agencies to inventory their rape kits to analyzing them in a certain amount of time. Three states — Colorado, Illinois and Texas — have passed laws that mandate a statewide accounting of untested rape kits.

Most of the other states’ proposals favor the inventory measure that would require all law enforcement agencies that store rape kits to count the number of untested kits. Rape Project spokeswoman Natasha Alexenko estimates there are about 400,000 nationwide that fall into that category.

“Until we enact this kind of legislation where we’re counting them, we really have no idea,” said Alexenko, a rape victim whose rape kit was finally tested after nearly 10 years, and her attacker arrested after a match was found.

Rape victim Meaghan Ybos of Memphis has been crusading for legislation to address the backlogs for several years. The 27-year-old was 16 when she was sexually assaulted in her suburban home in 2003. She underwent a forensic rape exam, but never heard anything else about her kit.
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