NIOTA, Tenn. (AP) — The city of Niota is again without insurance and has shut down most city services.
According to The Daily Post-Athenian, only a skeleton staff remains in the city of about 800 residents.
Coverage through the Tennessee Municipal League lapsed at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. Athens Insurance owner Allen Carter said he received a letter from TML stating that the city did not meet the “long term results needed” for coverage to continue.
Carter had negotiated 60-day temporary coverage for the city through TML.
“Niota just needs to handle their affairs and their business correctly,” said Carter. “But right now, there’s just not that option.”
Carter said a lawsuit against the police department was a factor in TML’s decision, but noted the major issue was errors and omissions by public officials.
The insurance pool indicated in April that it wouldn’t renew the city’s insurance because Commissioners Richard Rutledge and Leesa Corum refused to participate in an investigation. A former city worker had accused both of harassment.
Rutledge said on Tuesday that the loss of insurance is not only because of the actions of him and Corum.
“If I felt in any way that it was my problem, I would step down,” Rutledge said.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported six employees were laid off Tuesday. The police department is closed, the volunteer fire department is shut down as are the library and the parks.
Mayor Lois Preece said the sewer department had been contracted out to avoid steep environmental fines from the state if it ceased working. Preece said garbage collection might go to a contractor as well.
Preece said the layoffs were not a surprise to those now without jobs.
“They knew it was coming,” she said. “I try to be very upfront with my employees.”
A group that advocates expanding TennCare to more of the state’s poor delivered a petition and stated its case to an aide to Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday, reports The Tennessean. A coalition that includes the Tennessee Nurses Association, Tennessee League of Women Voters, Tennessee Health Care Campaign and the Tennessee Justice Center said it has gathered more than 4,500 signatures for an online petition calling on Haslam to offer TennCare services to everyone making 138 percent of the federal poverty level or less.
The cost would be paid in full by the federal government through 2016 and in large measure until at least 2020.
Haslam put off a decision on TennCare expansion in March, saying he wanted to continue negotiating with the federal government for a plan that would let the state offer private insurance to new enrollees. He has said he expects to know whether those negotiations will pay off by the end of summer.
Don Johnson, Haslam’s assistant director for constituent services, accepted the petition on the governor’s behalf and met with several advocates. They argued that expanding TennCare would help those who currently do not have coverage as well as rural hospitals that face service cuts or closure.
Note: News release below.
Stunned lobbyists for Tennessee cities are trying to regroup after Rep. Mike Carter’s bill upending the state’s 15-year-old urban growth boundary law barreled through the House Local Government Committee on Tuesday despite their concerns,reports Andy Sher. The freshman Ooltewah Republican says he brought the bill affecting annexation (HB231) because of Chattanooga officials’ previous efforts to amend its growth plan in order to, in Carter’s words, “cherry pick” affluent suburbs. But he says the problems extend well beyond Chattanooga, and so does his bill.
Calling it the “Ryan’s buffet rule” after the all-you-can-eat restaurant chain, Carter says the bill requires cities to “clean” their “plates” by annexing everything in their current urban growth plans before seeking to amend them.
Another bill provision requires cities to meet their requirements to provide services to all previously annexed areas before amending the plans. Because the bill affects every town and city in the state, that brought officials from the Tennessee Municipal League, which represents them, running to the full committee after the measure passed subcommittee last week.
“This is not limited to Chattanooga,” TML Deputy Director Chad Jenkins told committee members. “It’s not limited to Hamilton County. It’s not limited to big cities. It’s every city in the state.”
Jenkins warned of “unintended consequences if this bill is passed” with impacts far beyond Hamilton County.
He also said the 1998 law, which requires cities to create urban growth plans as a solution to urban sprawl, worked in Chattanooga’s case because other cities and Hamilton County easily blocked the city’s effort on the local coordinating committee comprised of local mayors.
Jenkins also warned Carter’s bill would block cities from annexing property held by property owners who wish to come into the city for various reasons. He cited as an example a farmer who wants to increase the value of his land by obtaining services like water and sewage to entice developers.
News release from League of Women Voters
Nashville, TN – The League of Women Voters today launched a radio ad campaign urging Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker to step up and lead on the vital issue of disclosure and campaign finance reform. The ad, “Flood of Money,” encourages the Senators to help bring sunshine and disclosure to the secret money pouring into American elections.
The 60-second spot is intended to educate and inform Tennessee citizens about the tidal wave of secret money flowing into election campaigns. “Voters should have the right to know who is financing ads relevant to elections. Currently, unlike candidates, corporations, unions, lobbyists, and special interest groups are not required to acknowledge that the ads reflect their personal opinion,” said Margie Parsley, state President of the League of Women Voters.
“It is very frustrating as a voter, lacking the knowledge of the funding source, to trust the information,” Parsley said. “We hope the League of Women Voter’s radio ads in Tennessee will lead to an informed discuss about disclosure laws.”
The ad calls on the Senators to, “Tell us you’ll let the sunshine in. Tell us you support full disclosure.”
Statement on redistricting from the Tennessee League of Women Voters:
Representative democracy depends on voters freely choosing their elected officials, not elected officials choosing them.The League works to promote transparent and accountable redistricting processes and to end hyper-partisan practices that don’t benefit constituents.
In our view, the Tennessee redistricting process that has been in the news lately certainly lacks transparency and accountability. We do not have a position on where
to draw district lines nor do we necessarily believe this process is worse than previous legislative efforts.
We do believe, however, that the secret discussions which lead to this “take it or leave it plan” do not serve the public interest. Tennessee can do better.
The League continues its work to encourage development of a better system well in advance of any future redistricting processes. Recently, the League of Women Voters of Tennessee sponsored a contest, which resulted in many Tennessee redistricting maps
being developed on a voluntary basis by students and other Tennesseans.
These maps were judged based on several criteria including:
Compactness. Are all parts of the district within a close geographic area?
Community Preservation. Are counties kept intact as much as possible? Population. Is the variance from the ideal population as small as practicable?
Competitiveness. Are there districts that could be won by either party? It seems clear to the League that the maps submitted by students and others to the Tennessee Map It Out! competition demonstrate how it is possible to use new census data for rational redistricting. For more information see the following website:
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization, encourages the informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership in the League is open to men and women of all ages. With more than 90 years of experience and 850 local and state affiliates, the League is one of America’s most trusted grassroots organizations.
Margie Parsley, President, League of Women Voters of Tennessee
News release from League of Women Voters:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville-area high school students dominated the TN Redistricting: Map It Out! contest, sweeping three of the four winning categories.
John Overton High School won in the category for Best High School Map. Michael Earhart, a senior at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, took top honors in the Best State House Map and Best State Senate Map categories. Nashville resident Dave Rosenberg won the Best Congressional Map category.
The winners in each category received $1,000 from the League of Women Voters of Tennessee, which sponsored the nonpartisan, statewide contest, designed to educate residents about the redistricting process.
The League recognized the winners at an awards ceremony held at the First Amendment Center.
Participating educators were awarded a cash stipend for leading their students in the redistricting contest.
“The League of Women Voters of Tennessee congratulates all of the winners of TN Redistricting: Map It Out!,” said Margie Parsley, president of the League. “I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the contest. I am especially proud of the 150 students from across the state who took the time to draw maps, either in groups or as individuals. Although the contest has ended, the League will continue to educate the public about the redistricting process.”
The Tennessee General Assembly must propose new electoral districts every 10 years to reflect shifts in the state’s population and to comply with the nation’s “one man, one vote” law. In a recent telephone poll of registered voters conducted by Vanderbilt University, 72 percent of those surveyed said that it was important to place communities and cities in the same district as much as possible when redistricting.
The contest received a total of 20 entries from all corners of the state. Each map was judged on the following criteria:
o Compactness. Are all parts of the district within a close geographic area?
o Community Preservation. Are counties kept intact as much as possible?
o Population. Is the variance from the ideal population as small as practicable?
o Competitiveness. Are there districts that could be won by either party?
Contest judges included:
· The Honorable Mischelle Alexander-Best, a former judge of Division XI of General Sessions Court in Shelby County who currently serves as a public defender. She is a teacher at Lemoyne-Owen College and Strayer University and has more than 15 years of teaching experience. Alexander-Best holds a Bachelor of Science Degree and a Juris Doctorate from Memphis State University (University of Memphis).
· Dr. Bruce Ralston. Ralston is a professor emeritus of geography at the University of Tennessee and specializes in transportation and geographic information science. During his career, Ralston has developed software for and served as a consultant to the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development, the Southern Africa Development Conference and the World Food Program. He holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.
· Dr. Carrie Elizabeth Russell holds a bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College in Memphis, a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law, and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. She currently serves as a Public Law course teacher and a political science lecturer at Vanderbilt University. Before earning her Ph.D., Russell worked as a judicial clerk for Tennessee’s 20th Judicial District.
To request an electronic version of the winning maps, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. A complete list of contest rules and judging criteria can be found at www.tnmapitout.org.
From the League of Women Voters:
TN Redistricting: Map It Out! is well under way. The contest already received the first map submissions. Do not forget to submit your maps before the deadline on October 24 at midnight.
If you have not already signed up, click here: www.tnmapitout.org to do so.
Again, the League strongly encourages contest participation by students and their teachers, and is providing a $250 stipend to the first 20 professors or teachers whose students submit a plan that meets contest criteria.
REMEMBER: Cash prizes totaling $4,000 will be divided among winners in the following categories:
Best Overall State House Map
Best Overall State Senate Map
Best Overall Congressional Map
Best Map by Tennessee Middle School
Best Map by Tennessee High School
Best Map by Tennessee College or University
And, all the instructions for submitting your map can be found at www.tnmapitout.org under the “Rules” tab on the website. So, do not miss your chance to be a part of this contest and earn a cash prize.
Thank you –
President, Tennessee League of Women Voters