Tag Archives: Brian Kelsey

On Kelsey, Corker, Alexander and the hospital fee that will pay for Haslam Medicaid expansion

Sen. Brian Kelsey, an avowed opponent of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Medicaid expansion plan, is questioning its reliance on a voluntary hospital assessment that would fund the state’s future share, citing efforts two years ago by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker to eliminate the widespread practice, reports the Chattanooga TFP.

“I question whether the federal government is a reliable negotiator,” said Kelsey, who then cited Corker’s bill and noted it sought to “abolish the hospital tax to be relied on” in Haslam’s proposal.

Haslam is trying to win approval of what he calls his “market-driven” two-year pilot project in a Feb. 2 special session of the GOP-dominated General Assembly.

If approved, the pilot project would be entirely federally funded through 2016 under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

After that the federal share would decrease over time. By 2020, the state would bear 10 percent of the costs. But Tennessee hospitals, desperate to see the coverage, have agreed to pay the state’s share through expansion of an existing assessment.

That’s allowed Haslam to argue that his plan — which includes vouchers for workers to join employers’ health plans and a re-tooled version of TennCare that introduces measures to control patients’ costs and providers’ charges — “won’t cost Tennessee taxpayers another dime.”

Asked about Kelsey’s assertions, Corker, a close ally of Haslam who has praised the governor’s plan, said in a statement that “while I am opposed to the policy that allows states to utilize provider taxes and have introduced legislation in the past to eliminate it as part of a broader fiscal reform package, I assume governors will continue to take advantage of federal laws as they exist today.”

As for whether the senator plans to reintroduce legislation eliminating provider fees or taxes at some point, Corker’s office later said the senator “has no current plans to introduce stand-alone legislation to eliminate the provider tax funding mechanism.”

In 2013, Corker introduced a bill called the Fiscal Sustainability Act of 2013. It was a comprehensive debt-reduction bill pushing changes not only in Medicaid but in other entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. It called for eliminating all health-care provider taxes or fees in 2023.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., went nowhere in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate. Republicans now control the Senate as well as the U.S. House, but Democratic President Barack Obama remains in office for another two years and likely would not allow such a measure to become law.

But if a Republican wins the White House in 2016 and Republicans still control Congress, it could be another matter.

A spokesman for Alexander, also a Haslam ally who recently welcomed the governor’s plan, issued a statement that indicated more flexibility on the provider funding question.

“Congress should pass the Corker-Alexander plan, or one like it, to address out-of-control entitlement spending and fix the federal government’s $18 trillion debt,” spokesman Brian Reisinger said in an email. “Senator Alexander believes Gov. Haslam deserves credit for working to create a plan that Tennessee can afford, and that determining how hospitals contribute to that plan is a state decision.”

Note: See also the Commercial Appeal story along the same lines.

Kelsey bill would ban military vehicles, aircraft and weapons for TN law enforcement

State Sen. Brian Kelsey proposes to ban Tennessee law enforcement agencies from owning or using surplus military vehicles, aircraft and weapons, reports the Johnson City Press. Some law enforcement officers are not happy with the idea.

“Traditionally, America has had a clear separation between the military and the police to ensure we remain in a free democracy,” Kelsey said. “I think we can support both our police officers and our citizens by ensuring that our police officers are not viewed as the enemy. This bill is an important step in that direction.”

The bill (SB39) reads, “No law enforcement agency shall own or use a military vehicle, military aircraft, or military weaponry for any law enforcement purposes.” While it would prohibit law enforcement agencies from owning and using any and all vehicles, aircraft and crew-served weaponry — a weapon that requires more than one person to operate — it would exempt certain weapons — such as “magazine-fed, gas-operated, air-cooled rifles designed for semiautomatic or automatic fire,” which would include M16 and AR-15 rifles — from proscription.

(Note: Law enforcement agencies would be given until Jan. 1, 2016, to get rid of covered equipment they already own. Tennessee agencies have received more than $321 million in surplus military equipment since 1993 — previous post HERE.)

Although Kelsey said he did not speak to law enforcement personnel before introducing the legislation, he added he hoped the bill would be used as a way to begin that conversation.

“I will be speaking with law enforcement agencies throughout Tennessee about this bill,” Kelsey said. “Drafting and filing this bill is the beginning of that conversation. I’m certainly open to any suggestions they have on the issue.”

Local law enforcement officials expressed some misgivings regarding that issue, however. Although he said he hadn’t read the bill, Carter County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy James Parrish — whose previous position was as a lieutenant colonel in the Army — said he thought it may have been drafted for political or conversational purposes instead of legislative ones.

“What he’s trying to do is provoke comment,” Parrish said. “I’m sure the gentleman means well. But we would be hesitant to comment on something designed to provoke controversy. If it gains traction, we’ll talk about it at that time.”

Other local law enforcement officials had concerns over the potential loss of equipment that could be wrought from the bill. Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois — whose department has participated in a federal program aimed at supplying military equipment to local law enforcement agencies for more than 20 years — said the loss of military vehicles could affect the safety of his officers, and the public, in certain situations.

Note: President Obama last week set up a panel to review federal laws and policy for providing military surplus items to local law enforcement. The Washington Post story on that move is HERE.)

Kelsey strives for compromise with ‘local control’ voucher bill

News release from Sen. Brian Kelsey:
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), January 16, 2015 – State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), filed legislation yesterday afternoon to create Opportunity Scholarships with a new “Local Control” provision. Senate Bill 122 mirrors Gov. Haslam’s “Tennessee Choice and Opportunity Scholarship Act” that passed the Senate last year with the addition of a new “Local Control” provision.

“All children deserve the chance for a quality education,” said Sen. Kelsey. “This bill will focus on low-income children but will give local school boards more control in how to best design the scholarships for their students.”

As in the governor’s bill, Opportunity Scholarships of roughly $6,500 would be offered to low-income students to attend the school of their parents’ choice. The scholarships would be offered to all students eligible for free and reduced price lunch in schools performing in the bottom 5% of schools in the state. Free and reduced price lunch is offered to families making up to $44,000 annually for a family of four.

The scholarship program would be capped at 5,000 students in year one, 7,500 in year two, 10,000 in year three, and 20,000 in year four and thereafter. If those caps are not reached each year, scholarships would be offered to other low-income children in those counties in which a school in the bottom 5% of schools is located.
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Kelsey, Durham come up with new way to attack Obamacare in Legislature

News release from Sen. Brian Kelsey:
(NASHVILLE), January 15, 2015 – Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Representative Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) today filed legislation that would prevent individuals and businesses in Tennessee from being assessed fees under Obamacare if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in the case of King v. Burwell. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the case in March which, in effect, challenges the administration’s regulations on citizens in states which did not set up state healthcare exchanges in conjunction with the federal act.

“This bill will stop the IRS from penalizing Tennesseans for not signing up for Obamacare,” said Senator Kelsey. “It also prevents Tennessee from operating any Obamacare exchanges in the future.”

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that the section of the law authorizing the government to distribute tax credits and assess penalties applies only when states choose to run their healthcare exchanges. The law does not explicitly state that the tax credits and penalties apply when the federal government runs the exchange. Tennessee is one of the 25 states that have chosen to force the federal government to run its exchange. Senate bill 72 would prohibit Tennessee from running the exchange in the future if the plaintiffs receive a favorable ruling the case. A decision on the case is expected by in June after the Tennessee General Assembly has adjourned.

“The Supreme Court could overturn half of Obamacare, and this bill will prepare our citizens for that,” Durham concluded.

Sunday column: Euphemism vs. hyperbole as ‘Insure Tennessee’ meets ‘Obama Medicaid expansion’

Back in March, state Sen. Brian Kelsey declared in a press release that “Tennessee placed the final nail in the coffin of ObamaCare Medicaid expansion when Gov. Haslam signed my Stop ObamaCare Act.”

But come December, we find that Haslam has brought forth — from the coffin? — some sort of creature that bears perhaps a passing resemblance to the deceased Obamacare Medicaid expansion. Or at least some folks thought so, though the governor and his team of spokespeople explained that is not the case at all; it’s an “alternative.”

“We aren’t expanding Medicaid,” Haslam spokeswoman Laura Herzog pitched Politico after last week’s announcement. “We unveiled Insure Tennessee.”

So, you see, the governor signed off on killing Obamacare while giving birth to Insure Tennessee. Both Kelsey and Haslam are then right because the creatures are completely different?

Actually, of course, everybody is employing euphemisms and/or hyperbole to color the political creature picture. And it’s not the first time this has happened in preparation for the 109th General Assembly that will convene in three weeks.

Also on the agenda for squabbling in the session will be conservative legislators’ efforts to repeal Common Core standards. Except that Haslam’s state Department of Education has already erased all reference to “Common Core” on its website and in its publications. The governor says we instead are developing “Tennessee standards,” which just might – though he doesn’t really say so – bear a passing resemblance to those things that critics call “Obamacore.”

What’s in a name? Well, the governor obviously thinks there’s a lot to be said for rebranding. Those on the other side, also obviously, are big on labeling, too.
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Legislators propose a ‘Racial Profiling Prevention Act’ for TN

News release via Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and State Representative John DeBerry (D-Memphis) today filed legislation to help end racial profiling by law enforcement agencies in Tennessee. The “Racial Profiling Prevention Act” defines the discriminatory practice and calls for all law enforcement agencies in the state to adopt a written policy to prevent it by January 1, 2016.

Kelsey said the bill was created as a result of the events that took place earlier this year in Ferguson, Missouri where Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson during a pursuit of the unarmed teenager. The shooting sparked a national debate about law enforcement’s relationship with African Americans as it relates to the use of force and racial profiling.

“Whether you agree with the decision of Ferguson or not, we should all agree that racial profiling has no place in law enforcement in our state,” said Senator Kelsey.

Senate Bill 6 defines racial profiling as the detention, interdiction, or other disparate treatment of an individual based solely on perceived race, color, ethnicity or national origin. The bill would apply to any law enforcement agency responsible for preventing and detecting crime and enforcing laws or local ordinances if their employees are authorized to make arrests for crimes. It would also apply to officers employed by colleges and universities.

The General Assembly will convene to begin the 109th General Assembly on January 13.

Kelsey pre-files bills to implement Amendment 2, repeal Hall income tax

News release via Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE — Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) yesterday filed legislation related to Constitutional Amendments 2 and 3, which were sponsored by Kelsey and were ratified by Tennessee voters on Tuesday. Kelsey is the first person to sponsor two successful amendments to the 1870 Tennessee Constitution.

SB 1 will implement Amendment 2, which follows the Founding Fathers’ method of selecting judges. Appellate judges will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature. Voters of Tennessee retain the ability to remove judges at the end of their 8-year terms. This new process differs from the previous process in Tennessee, in which judges were selected by an unelected, unaccountable panel of mostly lawyers. The constitutionality of that method had been in dispute since its enactment in 1971.

“Thankfully, a majority of Tennesseans voted to end a 40-year constitutional crisis by borrowing from the wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers,” said Kelsey. “I hope this legislation will stay on the books for 100 years or more.”

Amendment 3 banned a state income tax and any local payroll tax. It passed with 66% support. Amendment 3 left intact the Hall income tax, which is a state tax on interest and dividends. SB 2 will phase out the Hall income Tax over 3 years by reducing the 6% tax by 2% each year.

Kelsey said, “I am glad that an overwhelming majority of Tennesseans voted to ban a state income tax and local payroll tax with Amendment 3.” Kelsey continued, “Now it’s time to eliminate the Hall tax.”

Drafts of the bills are available HERE and HERE.

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown. He served as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 108th General Assembly.

Haslam still eyeing Medicaid expansion; Kelsey says ‘no way’

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s still in talks over finding a way to expand Medicaid in Tennessee despite pushback from fellow Republicans in the state Legislature.

The governor said in a conference call with reporters after meetings with bond rating agencies in New York on Thursday that he wants to find a solution that is acceptable both to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and to largely skeptical lawmakers in Tennessee, who must approve any deal under a law passed earlier this year.

Haslam said that he had meetings over the subject in Washington as recently as two weeks ago and that TennCare officials have been involved in ongoing discussions on the issue.

“We’re doing our best to push forward to see if we can find something that works so that we can bring it back to the Legislature in time for them to fully consider it,” Haslam said.

Haslam’s suggestion last month that a deal could be in the works brought swift criticism from Republicans in the Legislature, including Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, who said it appeared the governor was “not very serious” about the proposal because he hadn’t consulted with the General Assembly.
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Three GOP state senators file complaint against Nashville judge

Three Tennessee state senators have filed a complaint against Davidson County Judge Casey Moreland in the wake of his controversial decision to waive the 12-hour “cooling-off” period and release a man accused of abusing his girlfriend.

From The Tennessean:

Sens. Mike Bell, Randy McNally and Brian Kelsey have submitted the complaint to the Board of Judicial Conduct, which is charged with investigating allegations of misconduct by the state’s judges. In the complaint the senators say Moreland’s actions “have done nothing but promote distrust, suspicion and a belief that the ‘good ole boy’ system pervades the judiciary.”

On June 8, after a call from his friend and political contributor, local attorney Bryan Lewis, Moreland, a general sessions judge, overruled a 12-hour domestic violence hold on David A. Chase, who was accused of pulling his girlfriend out of his apartment by her hair. Less than three hours after his arrest, the prominent Nashville contractor was released by Moreland, and police say he returned to beat his girlfriend again while she was packing her belongings to leave.

“Reports indicate that Judge Moreland was completely disconnected but chose to insert himself into the case,” Bell, R-Riceville, wrote Friday in a statement explaining why he filed the complaint. “It is our duty as legislators to oversee the creation of laws and to check and balance our other governmental branches. We strongly feel it is within our duty to ensure that a proper complaint to the Board of Judicial Conduct is formally filed in this matter.”

Bell, Kelsey, R-Germantown, and McNally, R-Oak Ridge, accused Moreland of violating several Tennessee Supreme Court rules that govern judges. They chastised him for talking with Lewis without involving prosecutors, and they allege Lewis’ tight-knit relationship with the judge influenced Moreland’s actions.

“Judge Moreland has engaged in actual impropriety and should be severely sanctioned by the board,” the senators wrote in the complaint.

Moreland has publicly acknowledged that he and Lewis are friends. The two have vacationed together in Costa Rica, and Lewis and his wife each contributed $1,500 — the legal limit — to Moreland’s campaign in 2013.