Tag Archives: fear

UT Officials: Fear of Legislature Blocking Same-Sex Benefits

Complex state insurance plans, constitutional hurdles and political consequences have all kept the University of Tennessee from delivering health insurance and other benefits to unmarried same-sex and opposite-sex couples, reports the News Sentinel, citing a letter UT leaders sent faculty members earlier this month.
In the letter, Chancellors Jimmy Cheek and Larry Arrington acknowledged that the school’s biggest challenge is a conservative Legislature that could react with a heavy hand — particularly when it comes to funding — should the school attempt to offer benefits for same-sex couples.
“As we have expressed to you in person, the political issues are the most challenging,” the two wrote. “As leaders of a publicly funded institution, we are responsible for acting in the best interests of the entire institution. For this reason, we ultimately concluded that the University is not in a position to pursue the Faculty Senate’s resolution.”
The letter, dated Jan. 10, is the second such response requested by faculty hoping to open a dialogue about the possibility of offering insurance, bereavement and education credits to unmarried couples.
…”If that truly is what is behind the issues, I understand where that fear could come from. But I think that you’re deciding not to act based on something that hasn’t happened yet,” said Keith Kirkland, chairman of UT’s Commission for LGBT People.
“You have to allow people to react to things. This is something that needs to be done because it is the right thing to do.”
Kirkland said he is discouraged that he has not had a conversation with Cheek or even exchanged emails since becoming chairman of the commission last spring.

Dale Ford: Disappointed in Haslam, ‘Nothing to Fear’ from TBI

In his Sunday column, Robert Houk reports on a talk with state Rep. Dale Ford, who says he’s disappointed in Gov. Bill Haslam’s response to reports of a TBI investigation into his dealings with the Board of Nursing….and that he’s been assured by the TBI that he has “nothing to fear” from the probe.
If you don’t already know, Ford is a retired major league umpire (he has also refereed some big-time NCAA men’s basketball games). And while professional sports have often been touched by wrongdoing on the part of athletes, owners and officials, Ford said there’s never been a scandal involving MLB umpires. I have no doubt that’s true, but it doesn’t mean umpires don’t blow a call every now and then. Just ask the Atlanta Braves, who lost a 19-inning heartbreaker to the Pittsburgh Pirates last week because of a bad call at home plate.
The question is: Did Ford overstep his boundaries as a state lawmaker when he interceded on the part of the disciplined nurses? That’s what TBI officials are trying to determine. Ford says he has been assured by the TBI he “has nothing to fear” from its investigation. The Washington County lawmaker also told me he is confident that he did nothing unethical in the case.
“If they say I did, then there’s a lot of lawmakers who have helped their constituents who are also in trouble,” Ford said.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey was quick to come to the defense of Ford and Shipley, telling reporters that legislative oversight of state regulatory boards must continue. Gov. Bill Haslam told the Associated Press he is awaiting the outcome of the TBI investigation in the case, but added he doesn’t “like it when people use their leverage to accomplish a personal agenda.”
Ford said he was disappointed that Haslam did not speak up on his behalf. “The governor should come out and make a strong statement that he knows me and know I wouldn’t try to bully anyone,” he said.
Ford’s critics might say it’s not so much that he tried to help his constituents as it was how he went about doing it. In addition to meeting with health officials, Ford also introduced legislation that would create a special legislative committee to hear appeals from those who have had their professional licenses revoked or have been fined $1,000 or more by a state regulatory board. Ford said he later scrapped the bill after learning its “fiscal note” (cost to implement) made it impossible to pass this year.
The Jonesborough lawmaker says he understands the role of state regulatory boards, but believes they need legislative oversight. He said professionals who come before these boards need to be able to tell their side of the story.
“There are two sides to every story,” Ford said. “The truth is usually somewhere in the middle.”

Rep. Favors Explains Her Fear of Dogs

Andy Sher has a followup story on Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, who drew statewide attention this week when she complained in an emotional House floor speech about encountering a dog in the Legislative Plaza where lawmakers have their offices.
“I know my blood pressure is up sky-high right now — I just encountered a dog down in the plaza,” Favors told colleagues. “I am very upset about this, Madam Speaker. I think it’s so unfair that I have to deal with dogs here in this plaza.”
What went unreported is why she fears dogs — especially large ones like the one she encountered. It was, the Chattanoogan said in a later interview, the result of a dog attacking her when she was a small child. She had to get stitches on her arms and legs.
“I was attacked and bitten, multiple bites,” Favors said. “And a neighbor had to pull the dog off.”
Since then, the lawmaker said, she has “just avoided dogs as much as I could. … I wouldn’t expect them to be in a job environment.”
..About a month ago, Favors voiced concerns to a Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter when she saw a lawmaker’s dog being walked in a crowded legislative corridor by a secretary. But the dog Favors encountered did not belong to a lawmaker. It was a lobbyist’s.