Tag Archives: Brian Kelsey

AP story on Kelsey’s hope to ‘blow up Obamacare’ by banning health insurance exchange

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Some Republican lawmakers still reveling in the recent defeat of a proposal to expand Medicaid coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans are now setting their sights on 230,000 people enrolled through the federal health insurance exchange.

State Sen. Brian Kelsey’s latest proposal would ban Tennessee from creating a state-run exchange should the U.S. Supreme Court rule that the federal government can’t pay subsidies in states that declined to set up their own insurance markets. For many Americans, the subsidies make the insurance affordable.

“I’m hopeful the plaintiffs will be successful in this case and it will blow up Obamacare,” said Kelsey, R-Germantown.

Tennessee is among the 30 states — largely led by Republicans — that have declined to set up state-based systems and have exchanges run by the federal government instead. The bill represents an early effort to pre-empt efforts to cope with the fallout if the court rules the way many conservatives hope it will.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Wednesday, while the high court will likely take several weeks to release a decision.

Kelsey’s proposal is getting pushback from Republican leaders, including Gov. Bill Haslam and state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey.

“The concern is about tying the state’s hands in the future to what may or may not be the right proposal,” Haslam told reporters in Memphis on Thursday evening. “At the end of the day, I think good government is about making certain we provide the best alternatives possible.”

Ramsey said he had spoken to Kelsey about his concerns about the bill, which he described as “overkill.”
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Ramsey pans Kelsey bill on health care exchanges

A bill that would block the state from setting up an insurance exchange is nothing more than a political statement by Sen. Brian Kelsey, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said Thursday, according to Andrea Zelinski.

“I don’t think that bill’s needed. Once again, sometimes you have overkill,” Ramsey told reporters. “The basic premise of that, if the Supreme Court rules this way or the Supreme Court rules that way and if ‘that’ happens we’re going to do ‘that’ — that’s not the way you pass legislation,” Ramsey said.

Senate Bill 72 is built around a lawsuit now before the U.S. Supreme Court, King v. Burwell, that challenges whether the Internal Revenue Service can write rules to extend subsidies to people who buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s federal exchanges. Should the court find the IRS cannot write rules, Kelsey’s bill prohibits Tennessee from operating its own exchange and blocks the state from putting money for an exchange in the state’s budget.

“That’s more a political statement than it is good government,” said Ramsey.

…Kelsey rolled the bill in the Commerce and Labor Committee Tuesday until March 10, saying he is waiting to meet with the administration about the legislation.

Note: Previous post HERE (Kelsey’s press release promoting the bill.)

Voucher prospects rising in Legislature (but not for Kelsey’s bill)?

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says there’s little doubt school voucher legislation will pass the Senate this year and other lawmakers say prospects appear improved in the House as well.

But Ramsey said the voucher bill likely to win approval will not be one sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, reports The Tennessean. Why is that?

“Ask the governor. That’s between him and Brian Kelsey,” Ramsey told reporters Thursday morning.

Kelsey recently led the successful effort to kill Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal and, as The Tennessean observes, has otherwise been a “thorn in the side” for the administration – including past failed efforts for passing a voucher bill.

In a statement, Gov. Bill Haslam spokesman Dave Smith didn’t mention any rift between Haslam and Kelsey.

“In working with advocates on the issue, we have said that we could fund legislation in a budget amendment that was in line with what we have proposed in the past. The Gardenhire-Dunn bill reflects that in its original form,” Smith said, referencing a different bill that would allow school vouchers in the state.

Through a spokeswoman, Kelsey seemed surprised that the governor would not support his voucher bill.

“I do not know why the governor would not fund his own bill from last year,” Kelsey said.

…Without mentioning specific legislation, Ramsey said Kelsey knows there are political ramifications to any decision at the statehouse.

“(Kelsey) has to see, and I know he’s seen, we’ve talked about this, that actions do have consequences,” Ramsey said.

“And I’ve talked about this: Why does he not have the voucher bill? I don’t have to tell you all why he doesn’t have that voucher bill. Actions have consequences. But it’s not my fight, that’s what I’m saying.”

The Senate Education Committee recently passed Kelsey’s voucher bill by a narrow margin. However, voucher proponents are championing a bill sponsored by state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and state Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville. The bill is very similar to Kelsey’s proposal, and Kelsey is one of several Senate co-sponsors of the bill.

School voucher advocates StudentsFirst Tennessee announced Thursday that 19 other House members signed on as co-sponsors to Dunn’s bill this week, including House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga. The news comes after another pro-voucher group, the Tennessee Federation for Children, released a poll Wednesday that they argued shows growing support for vouchers in Tennessee.

And the Commercial Appeal reports that Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, who chairs the key House committee that must approve the bill, also thinks it will pass. White also cites the Gardenhire-Dunn bill as the apparently preferred version.

“If they keep it clean, like the bill two years ago, I think it will pass. It looks like a very limited version like the governor was for. If it stays that way, I think it will pass,” White said.

..The bill would limit the total number of vouchers statewide for the 2015-16 school year to 5,000, increasing to 7,500 during the 2016-17 school year, 10,000 for 2017-18 and to 20,000 for school year 2018-19, where it would be capped pending some future legislative action.

It’s essentially the limited voucher legislation backed by Gov. Bill Haslam two years ago. The governor withdrew that bill, and the voucher effort crashed, when advocates of a broader bill that would have made the taxpayer subsidies available to more students declined to accept the governor’s compromise.

Chamber and Kelsey differ on Insure TN, collaborate otherwise

Before a Senate committee killed Insure Tennessee, Greater Memphis Chamber CEO Phil Trenary raised the possibility of the group criticizing legislators opposing Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan, says Kyle Veazey. Now that it’s dead Sen. Brian Kelsey, a leading opponent, would be an obvious target, but…

There’s the Greater Memphis Chamber, with a more active political orientation of late and a relatively new political action committee. And there’s Kelsey, the Germantown Republican who’s the local face of the opposition to Insure Tennessee, the only one of the seven senators who voted ‘no’ who is from Shelby County. Would the chamber target Kelsey, engaging in some sort of political payback?

…I asked Trenary that Wednesday in his office, and here’s where he went:

“The first step is to understand why. We’ll reach out to Senator Kelsey and find out specifically, what is the path to success on this. Is there no circumstance under which this could be supported? We don’t know the answer to that, so we have to get that answer.

“And when it comes to accountability, we don’t do that, the voters do that. To the extent that there’s a tax increase, if there’s a cut in services because of those actions, then yes, there will be accountability. That comes at the ballot box.”

…“I have a positive ongoing relationship with the Memphis Chamber of Commerce,” Kelsey wrote in an email Thursday. “In fact, I am sponsoring two pieces of legislation on their behalf this year. I have always enjoyed working with the Memphis Chamber of Commerce, and I look forward to working with them in the future.”

…So, I asked, you and Kelsey aren’t enemies?

“No, no,” Trenary said.

And then, he just couldn’t help himself.

“Not yet,” he said.

Kelsey bill to void union agreements with cities draws opposition

Union officials in Memphis and City Council members in Chattanooga assailed state Sen. Brian Kelsey’s proposed legislation to dissolve union agreements with city workers, reports the Commercial Appeal.

At a news conference Thursday, Chattanooga City Councilman Chris Anderson introduced a proposed resolution asking his fellow council members to formally denounce state Senate Bill 123, drafted by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown. Anderson says that, among other things, the legislation could negatively affect up to 3,000 workers in Chattanooga alone.

On Tuesday, a Memphis City Council committee will consider a similar resolution.

The Senate bill seeks to prevent cities and metropolitan governments in Tennessee from recognizing or entering agreements with employee unions and rendering any “agreement, contract, understanding, or practice, written or oral, implied or expressed” between a city and a union “illegal, void and of no legal effect.”

Kelsey said Thursday he is only trying to help cities.

“If Tennessee wants to truly be a right-to-work state, we are going to have to apply those principles all the way down to the local level,” Kelsey said. “This bill will help cities to control their budget issues by giving them the ability to negotiate directly with employees.”

Mike Williams, president of the Memphis Police Association, said the state’s unions have been working to defeat the bill, which he said will set back the relationship between unions and local municipalities to an era before the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike.

Note: See also a Times-Free Press story, HERE.

Is this the year school vouchers win legislative approval? McCormick thinks so

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A top state House lawmaker says he believes a proposal to create a school voucher program in Tennessee may pass this year after failing in the past two legislative sessions.

Republican House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday, a day after legislation that gives parents the option to move a child from a failing public school to a private school passed the Senate Education Committee on a 5-1 vote. Two committee members were present but didn’t vote.

The measure is similar to one proposed last year by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, which passed the Senate but failed in the House after attempts to expand its eligibility. Haslam also failed to pass voucher legislation in the previous session.

McCormick said he’s not sure how the bill will ultimately look, but he believes it has a chance this year because of continued conversation about “school choice.”

“I do think there’s more momentum,” he said. “Every year that passes, it’s more likely that some kind of a voucher bill passes. So I think there probably is more of a chance this year that it could pass.”
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Kelsey proposes sale of out-of-state insurance in TN, TennCare savings accounts

News release from Sen. Brian Kelsey:
NASHVILLE – State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) today announced the introduction of two healthcare reform bills in the Tennessee General Assembly. One bill would expand the number of affordable health insurance options to Tennesseans by allowing for the purchase of health insurance across state lines, while the other would give TennCare recipients a personal health savings account (PHA) which is designed to give enrollees more choices and encourage them to make better healthcare decisions. In addition, Kelsey has drafted a resolution asking Congress to give states the authority to design their own models of reform by providing block grants to the states for Medicaid.

“As far back as 2006 I have supported these reforms to make health insurance more accessible and more affordable,” said Kelsey. “And the time is long past due for the federal government to block grant Medicaid to the states.”

The senate bill would allow TennCare recipients to use a PHA to purchase a benefit coverage plan from an array of options approved by the Bureau of TennCare, ranging from the conventional safety net of limited benefits to full-service benefit plans. The range of options must provide a broad continuum of consumer flexibility including, but not limited to, managed care organizations, self-directed plans, and medical home networks. Plans offered as options would directly compete for the enrollee’s business.

A recipient could choose to use the full amount of the PHA to purchase comprehensive or partial coverage plans. If the enrollee selects a plan with rates that are lower than the total amount of the PHA, then they could retain any balance of the PHA to spend on healthcare related items. Unused balances would roll forward to the next quarter. If the enrollee ceases to be eligible for medical assistance, a portion of the unused balance of the PHA could be used for health care expenses or to purchase health insurance. Unused funds would revert to the state after 12 months or immediately upon the death of the enrollee.
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Radio ad contends Kelsey is ‘selling out veterans’ in opposing Insure TN

A group called Heartland Accountability Project is criticizing state Sen. Brian Kelsey for his opposition to Insure Tennessee in a radio ad being aired on Nashville and Memphis stations, according to a spokesman who declined to give details about the group.

The ad text says Germantown Republican Kelsey is “selling out military veterans and their families” who would gain health care coverage through Insure Tennessee.

Here’s the text:

In combat, Americans who served our country have a simple code.

We don’t leave anyone behind.

But, Senator Brian Kelsey is selling out military veterans and their families.

35,000 veterans who do not get benefits from the VA … Kelsey will leave them behind.

20,000 family members of military veterans.

Brian Kelsey says he’ll leave them behind as well.

Kelsey is caving in to pressure from an out of state interest group that doesn’t care about Tennessee.

Kelsey is turning his back on job creation and a fiscally responsible plan that Governor Haslam negotiated with the federal government.

Kelsey supports sending billions of Tennessee tax dollars to liberal states like California and New York.

Brian Kelsey. Caving in to interest group pressure. Against job creation.

Leaving our veterans … behind.


Audio of the ad is HERE.

Note: A reader points out a link indicating that Heartland Accountability Project was incorporated last year in Virginia.

Sen. Brian Kelsey interviewed

Sen. Brian Kelsey discussed his legislative agenda for 2015 with the CA’s Kyle Veazey, including such matters in as “demilitarization of police,” panhandling in Memphis and, of course, his leadership in opposition to Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal by calling a special meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he chairs.

Excerpt on the latter matter:

Q: Why are you opposed to this two-year pilot program, which the attorney general has said you can opt out of?

A: I would love to clear up that issue. … What came out of (last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee) hearing was you had three different legal experts who offered three different legal opinions on that issue of whether or not we could opt out after two years. The AG opined that based on the NFIB vs. Sebelius decision, that based on that decision alone, that made it optional for states to opt in or opt out, and you could opt in or opt out based on that. Both of our legal experts actually disagreed with that position. They said that was an incorrect reading of the NFIB vs. Sebelius decision.

Q: Is that the crux of your opposition?

A: That would be one of the three, certainly. The first one is just a philosophical question as to whether or not we should be looking to limit government, in state government, or whether we should be looking to expand. And it’s also a question of who pays for this in the first two years, when the money comes from the federal government. There’s no doubt that this money is adding to our $17 trillion federal debt, and Tennesseans’ share of that income tax debt.

Q: That money’s going to be spent somewhere if it isn’t spent in Tennessee, isn’t it?

A: That’s not true. That’s absolutely not true. There are federal programs that are set up that way. Some federal programs they allocate a pot of money, and that pot of money is divvied up and spent based on laws in various states. That’s not how Medicaid works.

Q: Will Insure Tennessee pass?

A: I don’t know how this is going to go. I really don’t know how this is going to turn out. I really don’t.

Senators’ Insure TN dialog: Overbey issues statement; Kelsey tweets

State Sen. Doug Overbey says he will sponsor Gov Bill Halsam’s Insure Tennessee proposal after being convinced by the governor the program “is uniquely crafted to meet our specific needs while utilizing conservative principles.”

“Insure Tennessee brings market principles and individual responsibility to the program,” Overbey said in a statement. “The program is designed to control health care costs and improve access to many working poor Tennesseans who would otherwise have no access to affordable health insurance.”

Further from the Chattanooga TFP:

Overbey decided to sponsor the resolution allowing Haslam to seeks a waiver of federal Medicaid rules to extend health coverage to some 280,000 to 300,000 low-income Tennesseans, after Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, declined to carry it.

“This program is especially important to struggling rural hospitals that lost funding under the Affordable Care Act for treating poor patients who cannot pay,” Overbey said. “Unless it is approved, the loss of this funding could lead to the closure of some of our rural hospitals, meaning life and death for citizens in these areas to get to the nearest hospitals in a time of medical crisis.”

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, an opponent of Haslam’s proposal, fired a political shot off Overbey’s bow on Thursday with a Twitter missive.

“I would encourage @SenDougOverbey to give Arkansas Rep. John Burris a call,” Kelsey tweeted.

Burris, a representative and “architect” of Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion plan, lost his bid for a state Senate seat last year, according to news accounts.

Note: Overbey’s full statement is below.
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